By Ross Engel –
Recently Paul wrote about Confirmation and hating the way it has been utilized as a sort of silver bullet to make up for years of no catechesis taking place at home. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read his words. My Sunday morning Bible study and I recently had had an in-depth conversation about the need for parents to step up to the plate and teach their own children the faith, so it was a timely article.
While Confirmation, catechesis classes in particular, have plenty of room to improve and even plausible reasons for consternation and disgust, I have to admit that last night was the night that I absolutely love Confirmation Class. It was the last class of the year, the culmination of four years of teaching this particular group of kids. And this Sunday, three youth from our church will be confirmed in the faith and receive the Sacrament of the Altar for the first time. Now, the last class isn’t my favorite because it’s the last class. I don’t look forward to the class because it means that the year is finally over and my Wednesday nights are about to become family nights again – although that is a blessing too! There is a deeper reason for appreciating the last class of the year.
The last class of the year is always just the youth being confirmed that year and me. And so, instead of class being a hodgepodge of me teaching and lecturing, telling the kids to keep their hands to themselves, and answering the plethora of questions that the kids always seem to have as they wrestle through the Scripture and Catechism with me, this class is more of a conversation with the youth. It is a time for me to talk and ask them questions. It is a time where I get to hear them confess their faith and help them to have the proper words to declare what they believe.
From a practical standpoint, I suppose you could say that the last class of the year shows me whether the kids learned anything from me in the previous four years or not too! Though perhaps this may not be the most perfect gauge to measure my effectiveness as a teacher! Once a youth wrote a beautiful paper on the Three Articles of the Creed, but thanks to the wonders of Google, included a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. instead of Martin Luther, the Reformer. I had to explain the subtle difference between the two men!
(Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr.)
When I was confirmed, the practice was for all the Confirmands to sit before the congregation to be questioned by the Pastor. You had to be prepared to answer any question from Luther’s Small Catechism verbatim. It was a good and faithful practice that in most congregations has fallen out of favor. Perhaps one day this useful tradition will become more frequently practiced again.
While we don’t have Public Examination at my congregation, yet, the last class of the year is a Pastoral examination of the Confirmands, I get to ask them questions from Scripture and the Catechism and I take great joy in sitting down with the youth and listening to them confess their Christian faith.
The Scriptures give great words of comfort regarding confessing our faith boldly. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he writes, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6:12). In 1 John 6:15 we read, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” To the church in Rome Paul writes, “..if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom. 10:9-10). And our Lord Jesus promises us in Luke 12:8, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.”
I’ve always appreciated the depth of the Greek word for “confess.”
It literally means, “to say the same thing as” (or “to declare,” “acknowledge,” or “profess”).
I truly love the night of Confirmation class when I get to hear the Confirmands put into words their confession of faith. When they are able, with their own lips, to confess the same Christian faith that was confessed in their Baptisms; to confess together, along with generations of Christians before them, the faith that has been handed down to them by the Holy Spirit through the words of Christ and the apostles.
Whatever your congregation’s tradition and practice when it comes to Confirmation, pray for the young men and women who have been or who are being confirmed in their faith this year. May they indeed be faithful unto death with their confession and in this Christian faith. And may each of us find ways to continue to encourage these newly confirmed and one another to continue to be gathered to the Lord’s house to receive His precious Means of Grace. To stay faithful, even ourselves, to those Confirmation vows that were made by the grace of God, “To continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.”
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:19-25