This Sunday we will celebrate the confirmation of eleven of our teenagers. Most of these fourteen and fifteen year-olds – “confirmands,” as they have been known for more than a year – were baptized when they were infants. Their parents took vows on their behalf and promised they would model a faith of forgiveness, love and justice. Now these teenagers wish to “confirm” their faith for themselves.
Although we recognize that they are still very young and have much to learn in life, the church considers them mature enough to declare their own belief. Among other promises, they will vow
- “By the grace of God to follow in the way of our Savior”
- “To resist oppression and evil and to show love and justice, according to the grace given to you.”
Every time vows are taken in church – whether it is for baptism, confirmation, or a wedding – people make promises that they will only gradually understand. A young couple who vows to love one another in “sickness and in health” may not understand the overwhelming nature of that promise for many years to come.
We do not expect our confirmands (much to their relief) to “know it all,” to have a comprehensive understanding of the Bible or to be unquestioning in their faith. We make that clear when they answer what I consider to the most important question, “Do you promise, according to the grace given to you, to grow in the Christian faith.” They will give the hopeful, affirmative reply, “I promise, with the help of God.” They are promising to grow, ask questions, and continue to learn.
It’s a big promise.
What I love about their vows is the presence, over and over again, of words like “grace” and “the help of God.” The church is reminding them they are not alone. God never simply pushes us out of the nest or into our future with a hearty, “Good luck with that!” Instead, God promises to journey with us, supplying us with much-needed support and help.
There is an understanding, even an expectation, that we will make mistakes. Our confirmands – like many of us – more questions than answers, more doubt than faith, more uncertainty than conviction.
But they want to be on this journey of faith. They want to find out more. They want to discover who God is and the impact their faith can have. They want to make a difference in this world that needs the love, hospitality, and welcome of a forgiving and renewing God.
This is not the beginning of their faith journey; rather it is one step along an evolving path. We will surround them with our prayers and be reminded that all of us need to continue to search for God in our everyday lives.