By Bob Hiller –
This past Sunday, our congregation rejoiced with all the saints and angels over four eighth graders who stood up to confirm their faith in the triune God. At our church, we enjoy personal testimonies from each of the confirmands. I always enjoy listening to the students talk about how they believe in the death and resurrection of the incarnate God for them. I love hearing the pro me in action! But the part of the service that really gets me is the old rite of confirmation. In it, these eighth graders renounced the devil, confessed their faith in the truth of God’s Word, committed themselves to a life filled with and formed by the Word and Sacraments, and said they were willing to stake their lives on this confession. What is not to love in this rite?
As the students nervously recited their bold confession, it struck me that what I love about confirmation is that it is no mere empty rite these students are running through simply to keep their grandmas happy. No, standing up to confirm the faith given in Baptism is an act of rebellion against the old, wicked regime that terrorizes this world. These students stood up to proclaim that they were joining the resistance which we call the Church against the powers and principalities of this age. They mocked the devil’s rule over them, set themselves in opposition to whatever ideology the world drives at them, and continued to engage in the battle with their flesh by saying they would rather die than deny this Jesus.
To be confirmed is to sing with Luther: “Let this world’s tyrant rage, in battle we’ll engage!” It is to acknowledge that the grace of God worked, the baptismal call away from the enemy’s ranks was effective, and now you are standing to fight. To confess with your mouth what the Word of God has placed in your heart through your ears is to enter an embattled existence. One would have to be crazy to enlist in this battle. It is foolish in the eyes of the world to confess this faith, to stand for this confession. This is not a hill on which our flesh, apart from Christ, is willing to die. And make no mistake, the life of the baptized is a daily dying on this hill.
To be confirmed, to confess that you are one called and saved by Jesus, is to acknowledge that Christ has bid you to come and die, as Bonhoeffer reminds us. To be baptized is to be crucified with Christ and raised to a new life. It is a new life that must daily put that old, sinful man to death. To be sure, the old Adam or Eve drowned and died in Baptism. But as Luther quipped somewhere, the sucker can float! So, we enter the battle with the devil, the world, and our own flesh.
The devil hates Jesus and all that Christ loves, including you. In renouncing him and all his works and all his ways, you have a lethal enemy who seeks to make your life a living hell. To confess Jesus is to resist the temptation to give up while the devil is seeking to devour you. The world will mock and deride you for such a foolish faith. To confess Jesus means that you trust the Word of God to put the old way of thinking, the worldly mindset, to death and to raise you by renewing your mind. And finally, the Holy Spirit wages a difficult and painful war with your old sinful flesh. It is quite hard to endure at times. To confess Jesus is to trust that the discipline of the Spirit will overcome the old nature, and this too will work for your good, and He will raise you up on the last day.
To be confirmed is to join the resistance. Some might say that it is a foolish war to enter. But what choice did these students have? They had been captivated by the Word of Christ, rescued through the blood, baptized, and raised to a new life. They confirmed their faith and joined the resistance! They confessed Christ before the world. Are they nuts? Look at what enemies it will bring them! Look at what struggle and trial they will face, what crosses they must bear! They may lose their lives for this! What could drive someone to be such a fool for Christ’s sake? Only the promise, written in blood, that Jesus makes to these students and that He has made to you, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). That alone is reason enough to fight!