Summary: A message delivered on Confirmation Sunday dealing with the challenge of our commitment, the cost of our commitment and the constancy of our commitment.
Confirmation Sunday. We do it every year around this time of year. One would think as often as we do it we would have a better understanding of what it is, but as a pastor, I often get the question, “What is confirmation?” The word confirmation literally means “with firm-ness.” Confirmation means to make firm or solid that which has gone before or what was done earlier.
The “before” refers to our baptism and, in a broader sense, to our entire faith journey up to this point. Many of us were baptized as infants, although some of us were not. If we were baptized, we didn’t choose it. It was done for us lovingly by parents and sponsors. It was God’s gift to us. Baptism reminds us that God accepts us and loves us even before we can respond. Our parents pledged to raise us in the faith. And the church pledged to help them. Yes, the parents and the church made a commitment to share this journey, and confirmation is another step on the journey of faith.
Confirmation is about the gift God has given us in Jesus Christ. It is about how God has loved us. It is about what we do to receive the gift and make it our own. It is a time of claiming the name of Jesus Christ for ourselves. Baptism is a gift. Our parents may have accepted the gift for us, either by having us baptized or by bringing us to church. Confirmation is the time to decide if we want to “make firm” what God, our parents and the church have done for us, if we want to claim the name. Confirmation is the time we no longer have to depend on our parents’ decision in matters of faith. Confirmation means we are ready to know about what it means to be Christian, what we believe as a church, how we are to live our lives, our history and heritage.
We are old enough to profess our own faith, to say what we believe. It doesn’t mean that we know all the answers (who does?), but we can learn enough to begin the journey for ourselves.
Confirmation is about commitments. Today, the word commitment is not a very popular one. People may be committed to their jobs, marriages, a church, an organization, to friendships (as long as things go well), but when circumstances change, the degree of commitment often changes, too. I remind us today that this commitment to Christ is a life-changing commitment that perhaps we don’t take as seriously as we should. One reason is because confirmation is just something else we do in the life of the church, but as these students have come to make their commitment, may I take a few minutes to challenge us all to confirm our commitment with them? I want to do that by reflecting on the commitment of the early disciples. We get a glimpse of their commitment in Acts 5: 17 – 32. I discover a commitment to Christ that is challenging, costly and constant.
Let me set the scene. The apostles were meeting regularly at the Temple in Jerusalem and they were busy healing people. Literally, people were being brought on beds for Peter’s shadow to simply fall on them and they would be healed. It was amazing! Luke tells us “more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord.” The religious elite (Luke calls them the high priest and other Sadducees) became jealous and had the apostles arrested and thrown in prison.
Something interesting happened while they were in prison. Luke records an angel came and opened the prison door, let them out, and told them to “Go preach again in the Temple.” Well, they did! The next morning, the high priest convened the high council and sent for the apostles, but they weren’t in the prison. That was a bit perplexing for the council until someone arrived with the news the apostles were preaching in the Temple. Guess what? They were arrested again and brought before the high priest and his council. The high priest said, “You’re spreading all this talk about Jesus, and you want to blame us for his death. Didn’t we tell you not to do that anymore?”
Peter’s response is classic, and we do well to hear it again—“We must obey God rather than human authority. God raised Jesus from the dead after you hung him on a cross, and God elevated him the place of honor as Savior so that Israel might repent and turn to God for forgiveness. We are witnesses…”
Peter, speaking for all the apostles, confirms the commitment they made to Christ after his resurrection. We come this morning to confirm with these students that same commitment. Can we learn from the experience of the first disciples the challenge, the cost and the constancy of that commitment?