In some ways I have always been somewhat leery of what we in the church call “Confirmation”.
First of all – it ISN’T in the Bible.
Second of all – it isn’t some kind of magical thing that somehow sets you apart as a “special” Christian.
Third of all – I don’t think 5% people who are confirmed would have the slightest idea how to answer the question “What is Confirmation?”
Forth of all – sometimes I think it might actually do harm to a young person’s faith – rather than any good.
HOWEVER… even with these and several other “caveats”, this past Sunday’s service with our three confirmands was very wonderful and everyone was thrilled – including our young people. If nothing else, it was a beautiful time where we could celebrate and give thanks for our young people and “confirm” God’s Baptismal love for them – and ours. I know I was so proud of them and enjoyed our classes and sharing and FUN together in our Confirmation classes over our 2 year program. It was awesome! I am sad though that next year there is no one of confirmation age and I don’t know what I will do with my Monday nights! Maybe I just really need to get out on the streets FILLING my class! Will you join me? There are SO many kids out there who have NO church home or worship life. We need to spread the joy!
Now that perhaps some of the hubbub has passed after President Obama’s pronouncement that he is now in favor of Gay Marriage, I just want to note a couple things:
The President has often said in the past that his thinking on gay marriage has been “evolving”…. So… Is there any credibility to the notion that thinking on issues such as gay marriage can (or should) “evolve”? People will point to things like slavery and the civil rights movement as examples where there certainly was an “evolution” in our nation’s thinking. Gay marriage is just the same thing, supporters will say. Someday we will all look back and say “How could we have ever thought that way before?”
I believe it is a challenging point and we have to think carefully about it. We have to live with the fact that there were Christians in the past who defended slavery and racism with the Bible. We DO have to ask ourselves if anything is different today. Are we making the same mistakes as those supposedly well meaning and faithful Christians of the past? Are WE reading into the Bible things that we shouldn’t be when we continue to defend a strict definition of marriage to be between a man and a woman? Are we letting our own (often invisible) prejudices invade and twist our faith and thinking? Can we give a convincing argument that things are different this time?
I do believe that we CAN give a convincing argument… but the problem is that no one really cares about the argument! All people really care about is RELATIONSHIPS. President Obama’s reasons for changing his tune about Gay Marriage is testimony to this. What are the reasons he gives for changing his mind? The reasons he give are many: All the MANY people that he knows who are gay and want to get married. He can’t look them in the eye any longer and say that they shouldn’t be able to get married. This seems to me the real crux of the matter with most folks. They know people who are gay and they like them a lot and they want them to be happy. Why not? Everyone wants to be happy, right? Everyone has a right to be happy. It is in the constitution, for heaven’s sakes!
But this is an argument from emotion. Notice the President didn’t give any other reasons based on scripture (he does say he is a Christian), logic or reason.
Just asking the question: Is this a good way of determining public policy?
On the day before Mother’s Day I was able to observe a BEAUTIFUL gathering of women who were obviously thrilled to serve the Lord. They were from all over our Eastern Philly area congregations and they were preparing for the Eastern District Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) convention coming up in June – for which I will get to be their “official” photographer. I am REALLY looking forward to the convention – not only because I have been witnessing these fabulous women work, but also because the entertainer for the evening is Don Wharton. When I was a youngster in High School I had about three records of Christian musicians that I liked. Every day (literally) I would come home from school and listen to at least one of those records. Of course, one of those records was called “Uncut Diamond” – by Don Wharton! I am SO looking forward to hearing him for the first time – and to talk with him and let him know how absolutely critical his songs were to the formation of my faith and my desire to serve the Lord!
Pastor Joshua Gale, at our mission festival this past Sunday, shared with us how important the “WHY?” is in what we do. He explained that often in the church we like to focus on the “WHAT” of our ministry… listing all the “things” that we do. He contends that if we really want to move forward in mission we need to start with the “WHY?”. He listed off leaders like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer. Steve Jobs believed that computers would make the world a better place. He was able to inspire many people to do many great things in his company because he answered the question of “WHY?”. Essentially he was able to communicate the idea: “Come and work with me… because the world is going to be a better place with the computers we build.” That is quite the different message than saying “Come work with us because we have excellent computers.”
I am still working on what this means for myself as a pastor, and for us as a church… What is our “WHY?” supposed to be? I thought it was clear. I thought everyone knew. The WHY is Jesus, resurrected from the dead. Right? Because he loved us first? Because our sins are forgiven? Because there is no other name in heaven or on earth by whom we can be saved? Because with Jesus our lives are completely different and there is an answer to sin, death, and the devil?
I struggle from time to time (maybe you can’t tell)… It was a disappointment that the general attendance at our recent Mission Festival was not especially good. There were the folks who are always “there” (and I am thankful for them!), but I get the distinct impression that the movers and shakers of the generation coming up are not even the slightest bit connected to or motivated by the “WHY” of our lives as Christians. Maybe I shouldn’t judge the younger generation too harshly because they didn’t show up to a “Mission Festival.” WHY would they do that? Perhaps it isn’t a real indicator of their feelings… Maybe they just don’t see any connection between what they believe and care about – and what they do.
Wait! What did I just say? No connection between what they believe and what they do? Can such a thing be possible? Although sociologists seem to indicate that for the younger generations it most assuredly IS not only possible – but actually happens ALL the time, I am not so sure that the scripture can confirm it. According to Jesus the fruit of our lives is a direct reflection of our faith and what we “believe” (have faith and trust) in.
Perhaps there is such a thing as believing – but not too much… maybe “sort of” believing… Or believing as in “ascent”, but not really a “trusting” belief. Maybe the Bible calls that having a “luke warm faith”. I wonder what God has to say about that? (Check out Rev. 3:16)
It is a TOUGH call… Any thoughts?
I think the main thing that we have been unable to do is make a convincing case that the biblical principles of the fellowship of the saints, the power of corporate prayer, praise and worship has ANY benefit or meaning to our lives.
Why would you go – or not go – to a “mission festival”. WHY do we do anything? WHY did we stay home?