Sunday, November 9, 2014

Reflections On Confirmation

This afternoon we will be confirming people at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, where I work. Confirmation is something I have the honor and privilege of being a part of here at this church, as I teach the youth confirmation class (this year I had an adult take my class as well). Confirmation is a very big step, where a young person gets to make a public commitment to Jesus Christan and to the Episcopal Church as an expression of Christ's presence in this world.

Many evangelical churches have a big problem with infant baptism, and it is easy to understand why. For evangelicals, faith is a free choice made by an individual, and grace is received by making this free choice. The baptizing of infants risks removing faith's power to actually change lives and open one up to relationship with Jesus Christ. For sacramental churches, baptism is the act of God upon an individual, and is a sign of God's sovereign choice to elect someone into His Kingdom. Since the Church is the Body of Christ, the Church's act of baptizing infants is just an outgrowth of God's authority to save and to initiate relationship with whomever God choose to relate to.

But the sacramental churches are wise not to completely remove a recognition of the importance of the individual's choosing. Confirmation becomes too rote and commonplace in too many churches. It is important to emphasize the importance of the act and the day and we all need to do a better job at making the connection between what we do in Confirmation and the theological needs evangelicals see being met in baptism. Confirmation is not what saves a person, but it is a part of the relationship that brings one into full and mature relationship with God, and so into full and mature humanity. In the end, the early life of faith is, for the sacramental faiths, a kind of long wedding ceremony. At baptism, God says 'I do' to you. At Confirmation, you say 'I do' to God.

Today, several people from my church, including several I helped prepare, will be completing their wedding ceremony to God. This is not the end of the process of relationship, any more than a wedding marks the end of a marriage. Rather, it is when the beginning is truly is the end of the beginning. Relationship is now covenanted and committed to. I do not think one can any more back out of their confirmation than one can simply back out of their marriage. It can happen, but only with great heartache, and real struggle that will incur costs that last a lifetime.

There is no greater gift we can give to the world than to say 'yes' to God as revealed in Christ Jesus. To do this is to take into ourselves the reality of the God who Suffers on the Cross and to experience the regenerating power of the Resurrection. May those who give this gift today reap benefits from it throughout their time in this world, and for eternity in the next. Amen.

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