It's that annual time once again in our local setting to celebrate the confirmation of a large group of junior high youth. We "adult members" of the congregation have been there, done that. And the young children of our congregation still look forward to it with anxious anticipation. For now, however, perhaps it would do us all good to review just what this church tradition called "Confirmation" is … its meaning and significance.
The "old" 1943 Synodical Catechism from which many of us more mature members prepared for confirmation has the following two questions and answers about it.
"330. What is confirmation? Confirmation is the rite by which a baptized person renews his baptismal vow, publicly confesses his faith, and is received into communicant membership by the congregation.
"331. What should be the prayer of the congregation on the day of confirmation? On the day of confirmation the congregation should pray for the catechumens that they may grow in grace, be steadfast in the profession of their faith, become fruitful in every good work, and in the end receive the crown of life. Rev. 2:10 & Rev. 3:11."
The "new" 1991/2005 Synodical Catechism (which, by the way, is a wonderful improvement over the 1943 edition) contains the following comprehensive question and answer about confirmation.
"306. What is confirmation? Confirmation is a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community. Note: Prior to admission to the Lord's Supper, it is necessary to be instructed in the Christian faith (1 Cor. 11:28). The rite of confirmation provides an opportunity for the individual Christian, relying on God's promises given in Holy Baptism, to make a personal public confession of the faith and a lifelong pledge of fidelity to Christ. Matt. 10:32-33 & Rev. 2:10." (Italics are in both of the originals.)
The "Confirmation" rite in LUTHERAN SERVICE BOOK (CPH, 2006) has the following questions with their expected answers among the many addressed to the Confirmands:
"Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism? Yes, I do. Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord's Supper faithfully? I do, by the grace of God. Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death? I do, by the grace of God. Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? I do, by the grace of God."
The presiding pastor then declares,
"We rejoice with thankful hearts that you have been baptized and have received the teaching of the Lord. You have confessed the faith and been absolved of you sins. As you continue to hear the Lord's Word and receive His blessed Sacrament, He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." And, the beginning of one of the prayers states, "Almighty and most merciful Father, in the waters of Holy Baptism You have united Your children in the suffering and death of Your Son Jesus Christ, cleansing them by His blood. Renew in them the gift of Your Holy Spirit, that they may live in daily contrition and repentance with a faith that ever clings to their Savior."
Did you notice the references to Holy Baptism? Let me make two very important points for our soon-to-be newly confirmed members and all of us who were confirmed in the recent or long ago past. First, confirmation does not make us members of Christ's church. That occurred in Holy Baptism. Confirmation offers the invitation to partake of the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord's Supper in order to strengthen and safeguard our faith. Second, confirmation is not the termination of our learning about the Christian faith and how to live it. That must be a continuation activity or we risk the weakening and even death of the faith the Holy Spirit gave us in Baptism.
It's a sad reality that throughout our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations including our own local one many who are confirmed and make those public vows stated above don't darken the doors of our sanctuary for a long time, if ever again. While that is sinfully bad, it's perhaps even worse that many of us rarely, if ever, pray for one another and personally encourage each other to be faithful to our vows. We just let people fall away and then wonder why, complain about it, and criticize the Pastors and Elders for not preventing or correcting it. All of us—Pastors, Elders, sponsors, parents and family members, and general congregational membership—share the responsibility of prayerfully encouraging the new Confirmands and each other to remain faithful to our confirmation vows.
Let's use this special sanctified occasion to do two very important things. One, review and renew our own confirmation vows. Two, continue or begin to actively pray for and encourage one another (especially our new Confirmands) to live the Christian faith by regular participation in Word and Sacrament in our local setting or one of our sister LCMS congregations and daily obey God's Holy Law. Let's do so not in an effort to gain God's good favor but out of gratitude for His good favor that He already gave us in and through the forgiving life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
God bless you, new Confirmands, and all of us "old" ones as well. Let us all be faithful to our confirmation vows throughout our lives on this earth.
This sermon is not copyrighted. It is God's gift to His Church for free and unrestricted use through me who am one of His many faithful servants. Please exercise the common courtesy of properly acknowledging its source should you use part or all of it for any purposes.
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