Summary: A sermon for Reformation Sunday and the Rite of Affirmation of Baptism/Confirmation
Reformation Sunday, October29,2006
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we gather together today to give you thanks for your gift of salvation, offered to us through our baptism and faith in the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire us to continue growing in faith, that we might live in the covenant of our baptism, and reflect to those around us the joy of knowing your redeeming grace. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
I have chosen as my text for this morning the words of Jesus to those Jews who had come to believe in him. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Personally, I can not think of another statement of our Lord that would be more appropriate for our celebration of the rite of Affirmation of Baptism, or for our celebration of Reformation Sunday.
First, let’s consider these words of our Lord as they apply to the rite of Affirmation of Baptism, since David and Ian may be a little edgy about what I might have to say in this regard. But then, I don’t want to leave them off the hook too early, so I’d like to begin by sharing with you my own experience of affirming my faith, forty-six years ago.
At that time, this rite was known only as “the rite of confirmation,” and I believe that the change in title for this rite of the church reflects a real and significant difference in our understanding of what David and Ian are celebrating here, this morning.
Like David and Ian, I had to meet certain requirements to be confirmed. I had to attend Sunday school and worship every week for two years, serve the congregation as an acolyte and honorary member of one of the committees, and successfully complete a series of 40, two-hour classes with our pastor which were held on Saturday mornings, including homework and weekly tests.
When I finished all of the requirements, I was confirmed, along with thirty other students, in a ceremony that was marked with as much pomp and circumstance as a high-school graduation. We all wore special gowns, sat in the front three pews, in alphabetical order. When it came time for the rite of confirmation to take place, we all moved in procession, knelt to receive the pastor’s blessing, then returned to our pews.
Then, as the service continued, we again proceeded to the altar rail in unified procession to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, which was offered to us for the first time, signifying that we were now mature enough to participate fully in worship. Following worship, we had a group picture taken with us in our gowns, which was then included in a folder along with our certificate of confirmation. The problem with this rite of confirmation, was that it gave us the impression that we had graduated, that we had learned all of the essentials of the Christian faith.
David and Ian, it is truly a privilege for me to celebrate this rite of our church, in which you will each “affirm” the faith of your baptism. But if you gain one thing from this sermon that I preach this morning, please don’t conceive of this day as your graduation. Even though you may be thrilled not to have any more homework or quizzes from being in my class every Sunday, I assure you that you have not learned all that you need to know about the Christian faith.
But I do believe that you are ready to affirm the faith of your baptism, and to begin to take responsibility for what it means to live your lives as disciples of Christ. I think the one thing that I enjoy most about being a pastor, is seeing the kids in my class, “my kids,” develop and mature in their faith and honesty during the three years they spend with me in study. That is certainly true of both David and Ian, who will celebrate this rite today.
In fact, I invited David and Ian to attend my class last Sunday, in order to help plan this service, choose hymns, and give opportunity for the rest of my class to support them by taking part in the service. After we had completed our planning, I asked David and Ian if they minded if I include them in my sermon.
David responded by saying, “No, pastor, this is when you tell everyone that I didn’t turn in all of my homework, and that I could have done better on my tests.” In all honesty, I didn’t have that in mind, but since David offered me the illustration of his honesty, I couldn’t refuse.