In Their Own Words, Confirmation 2017
June 4, 2017, Joshua 4:1-9, Luke 2:41-52
I really like to share the gospel reading that Carter just read on confirmation. It’s the only passage in scripture that shows Jesus between the ages of birth and adulthood. It took place when Jesus was 12, pretty close to the age of our confirmands.
I like to point out that Jesus appears kind of sassy in this passage “Duh, Mom, you and dad should have looked for me here.” Which reminds us that Jesus was fully human.
But I also want the confirmation class to hear how the story ends, that Jesus returned home and was obedient!
Today is Pentecost, the day the church celebrates its founding, when the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit blew into the first followers of Jesus and enabled them to speak in languages they had never heard before. It was a miracle and the Holy Spirit working this way pointed to the Christian belief that everyone, everyone, everyone is a child of God, surrounded by and included in God’s powerful, amazing, surprising love.
In the years when we have a confirmation class we plan to welcome the class into membership in the church on Pentecost, because we recognize that new people bring new gifts and new life to the church. We can think of Pentecost as the church’s “re-birthday” and be filled with joy and hope that young people are feeling led to join this congregation. And, like a good “re-birthday” there will be cake in the Westminster Room following worship.
I am proud of the confirmation class. And you should also be proud of them. The class spent a few weeks in class writing their personal statements of faith. And in a literal sense they wrote most of this morning’s sermon. They used a format that appeared in this month’s church newsletter. I sincerely hope that our long-standing, established members will look at it and write, in your own words, what you believe.
Statements of faith are milestones. The students sign and date them, and they are put in frames to set them apart from other papers that wind up in a pile somewhere and get lost or forgotten.
My hope is that as the confirmands grow and change, they will return to their statements of faith and say things like, “I don’t believe that anymore.” And “Wow! I really like the way I phrased that when I was 15!” Faith is dynamic. The Holy Spirit—one of the three central ways we encounter God—is dynamic. People are dynamic. Everyone’s faith is going to change. In fact, one of the students wrote, “I have decided to join the church because to me it is like finalizing your religion for the moment, it may not stay the same, but for now it is what you believe.”
God loves all people. And all people are made in God’s image. God’s love is felt and experienced by every person in the world. And every person we encounter is also, equally, made in God’s image. Here’s what one of the students wrote about Jesus:
“I believe in Jesus the Savior who is anyone of any race, color or creed.”
It may be tempting, easy even, to dismiss the younger members of the church, but we would lose their gifts, wisdom and insight if we choose not to take them seriously. I hope you noticed that it was Jeremy who read the Old Testament lesson from Jeremiah. It’s the story of God calling Jeremiah to be a prophet for the nations. Like a lot of people, Jeremiah didn’t exactly want to be called by God, and resisted, because he was so young. But God reassured Jeremiah and promised “I am with you to deliver you.” God didn’t say, “Oh, right, I’ll wait until you’ve been confirmed before you should speak my word.
I’m proud of the confirmands because each of them described their own faith and drew on their own experiences. None of them wrote what they thought I or their parents or the Session wanted to hear.
I am proud of the confirmands because they have the confidence to claim the Christian faith on their own terms, shaped by their own experience.
So, this morning I am preaching their words. I have drawn on the statements of each of the students but I will not reveal who wrote what. That might be embarrassing, so instead, I ask you to think of all of them having written every word.
You can read along with me on the screen:
I believe in God the Creator who is seen in the eyes of the ones who touch us.
I believe in Jesus the Savior who gives us hope of a better tomorrow, the day he will come and end our sufferings and hardships.
I believe in the Holy Spirit who flows within and around us.
I believe the Bible is the gallery of Christianity from beginning to now.
I believe the purpose of the church is to be a safe place for all. It is also a location where friends, family, and even strangers can get together. Every month, we have a community breakfast. The church is a place where anyone can go to be part of a community.
I have decided to join the church because the people and food are awesome. Also, there is so much to learn.
I believe the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are us remembering God and us praising him for what he has done in the world.
I believe the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ways that we show that we matter and are all welcome in this world.
With regard to employment, I believe God wants me to change the world in a positive way.
Any job can bring honor and glory to God. Sometimes we use the word “vocation” when we talk about work. Vocation means being called. So one’s vocation is what God has called you to do. At this point, none of the Confirmands knows what particular vocation they will have, but they are determined that the work they do will make the world a better place.
I’m proud of the confirmands.
Confirmands, you should be proud too.
Parents of confirmands, you should be proud too.
But most of all, members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, you should be proud. You have supported the Sunday school program which nurtured these young people. You have watched them grow and fulfilled the promises you made when each of the confirmands was baptized.
Today we celebrate that they are now ready for all the responsibilities of church membership.