Reflecting on Confirmation
by Jen Miller
This Sunday, we celebrate confirmation. This ritual is an important part of the life of church members, as well as the church as a whole–it is a way for individual members to affirm the promises made on their behalf in baptism, as well as a way for the congregation to see the path of the church into the future.
My daughter, Zoe, is one of three young people getting confirmed this weekend at Christ the King. Over the last few weeks,I’ve watched as she has worked on writing out her faith statement, responding to three questions:
Her response made me wonder if asking confirmands for a faith statement is what we should be doing. What if in confirmation, we instead asked our young people–and ourselves–to commit to a life of embracing and exploring these questions, without expectation of definitive answers? Having heard the conversations Zoe has had as part of confirmation, I know that she is being encouraged by pastors and other mentors to see these questions as ongoing guides throughout her life, but given the emphasis in the church as a whole on creeds, explanations, and statements, I wonder if the importance of dwelling in the questions themselves gets lost along the way.
Imagine how freeing that could be, for a 15-year-old (or a 45-year-old!) to know that they didn’t have to have it all figured out! And from a rhetorical standpoint, prioritizing the questions themselves, rather than the answers, turns confirmation into a checkpoint along a faith journey, rather than an endpoint, a way to emphasize that faith is a lifelong process of learning about God.
While a person who can make a confident profession of faith seems to be the model of a strong faith, isn’t someone who is committed to embracing key questions of faith just as important of a model? The disciples are great examples of this–they are always full of questions. Even in the reading from Acts for this week, the very last thing the disciples say to Jesus before his ascension is to ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” It would be easy to chuckle at the disciples over their continued lack of understanding, yet they continue to walk alongside Jesus, striving to understand while serving him, loving him, and loving each other.
This model of a life of faith as one that asks questions, rather than provides answers, also sets believers on the path of humility, rather than arrogance. Rather than believing that we can come close to describing God, when we ask questions, we acknowledge that we don’t–and can’t–know God fully on our own, yet we are committed to coming ever closer.
Imagine how different our world might be if instead of approaching our neighbors with answers, we approached them with questions. How different would the history of our country look, for instance, if the first European settlers had come asking questions about the beliefs and values of the Native tribes, rather than providing them with answers? How different would our current political discourse be if leaders on both sides of the aisle asked questions to promote genuine understanding, rather than score points against an opponent? When our kids act out, what if we asked what was bothering them, rather than lecturing them?
In this embrace of questions, then, we might, paradoxically, also find an answer to one of the questions our confirmands were asked. In this embrace of questions, we have a way for us to live faithfully among all of God’s people.
The Big Question
by Pastor Sarah Anderson
“The BIG question!” That’s what I've come to call the query we ask of families at baptism and youth during affirmation. You might be able to guess the question which asks:
Do you intend to live among God’s faithful people,
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
to proclaim the good news in word and deed,
to serve all people,
and strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
It’s a BIG question, because a lot is packed into it. In fact, it’s really more like five individual questions all lumped together, and each question is a commitment in and of itself. This Sunday, three youth will be asked this question, and the congregation will also have the opportunity to say they will continue to support these young people in their lives of faith. As the ninth graders make a public statement of their faith, I invite you to pray for them, engage with them, and celebrate with them.
Additionally, you are invited to reflect on the BIG question and how it impacts your own life. Be curious how you are attentive to all its parts and the ways it impacts your decisions and your actions. You might notice there is an area you would like to set a goal to work on from now until the end of the summer. Whether the question is asked at our baptism or during the rite of confirmation, it is a living question, asking us to continually pay attention to our lives of faith.