On my desk at home is a little stand and on it is a black, leather bound King James Bible with gold leaf pages. On the cover is printed my name and the date: June 6, 1976. Next to it is a black bound Lutheran Hymnal with gold leaf pages, and on the cover is my wife’s name and the date: April 11, 1976. They look nice side by side. They’re meaningful. They were gifts to each of us on a special day in our lives, the day of our Lutheran confirmation back when we were 8th graders. Some of you who are reading or watching might not have had that experience of joining the Lutheran Church as communicant members through youth confirmation. For you, maybe it was later in life, or maybe that day is yet to come when you join as an adult. But for many of you, you remember your Confirmation Day as a 13 or 14 year old. You remember the touch of nervousness, as well as the feeling of honor and blessing. I recall once seeing a picture of my dad in his white confirmation robe as a youth. He said he remembers walking to church for instructions leading up to that day as one of the best times of his life. Why? Because of the things he learned there!
As I’m writing today, the day before our special Ascension Day service tomorrow night, you also know that Confirmation Day has just passed at our congregation. And in these months of April and May each year, you hear of other Lutheran churches having confirmation. You may have received an invitation or two for family or friends who have children being confirmed. Let those invitations and those days on the calendar give you a chance to reflect yourself on the important things you learned there – and continue to learn through the Word and Sacrament.
Confirmation is a custom. It’s not commanded in the Bible. Hearing, learning and holding to the Word and being comforted and assured of forgiveness through Holy Communion is in the Bible, of course. But, custom though it is, it’s a good custom. For our youth, it’s a time for them to do some focused study and then be able to stand up and confess publicly as Paul says in Romans 1:16: I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
Confirmation gives young people a chance to promise, with the help of God, to remain faithful to the truths of God’s Word for life. But the commitment that makes that promise possible isn’t found in us. The real commitment comes from God to us. He’s the One who looked at a world of sinners and so loved them that he sent his Son as a payment for sin, as an “atoning sacrifice”. In Christ, God confirms his love for us. He’s the One who in grace called us by the Gospel. And so we can say of our young, baptized fellow Christians: From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (II Timothy 3:15)
Confirmation also powerfully reminds our young people, as we are reminded, that in the forgiveness of Jesus we can face life with godly confidence, as the Lord told Joshua: Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
When Confirmation Day shows up on the calendar of our congregation or of your friends and family members, let that be a day that causes you to remember the things you learned. May the commitment of God to us in Christ spur us on to remain in him as branches to the Vine – to remain in him through our own regular use of the Word and Sacrament. May we be an example to our young people. And, finally, may these days move us to pray for them, because we know the temptations and the distractions they will face. Yet, as we’ve learned from God’s Word and we know from experience, what God told Joshua is true for them as it is for us: I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)