We had the most memorable confirmation service ever, this past weekend. One of the confirmands, who doesn’t like being in the spotlight, was reading her faith statement paper, a requirement for all our confirmands, and started breathing in quick, short breaths. Two sentences away from finishing, she turned around and vomited on the floor behind the pulpit.
I share this, not to embarrass the courageous young woman who decided she was going to read her paper rather than give in to fear, but because she had the best faith statement paper I’ve ever heard. And I’ve read a lot of really good faith statement papers.
Every year I dread this part of confirmation. I don’t know why, because every year I’m absolutely blown away but the depth of thought of these little 500 word treatises.
It makes me realize, “My goodness, these kids ARE listening. I better watch what I say.”
Most of these kids, when they start the two year process, can barely distinguish between the Old Testament and the New. Many of them have a “works” theology, meaning that they believe they need to “go to church and be a good person” in order to get to heaven.
That’s when I give them the one and only exam question (and the answer) they ever get from me.
Question: What do you have to do to get God to love and accept you?
Answer: Nothing. You don’t have to do a thing. God has already taken care of that in Jesus.
And after two years of classes, service projects, worship notes, faith mentoring, etc, they approach the altar, and say with confidence and conviction, “I believe in God the Father Almighty…”
When they were babies, their parents made promises for them. Now, they get to answer those same questions for themselves.
Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
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 of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
And they answer boldly, yet humbly: I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.
And not only that, they know what this means in every aspect of their lives. They know that relationships require forgiveness and wounded classmates need healing. They know that parents and siblings need patience and strength. They know that their lives matter; they matter to God, to their church, and to the world.
So whether they vomit on the floor, mumble so no one understand them, or trip over their words, I hope they feel safe with the embrace of the church around them, and the hands of a loving God underneath them. Because the world needs what they have: strength, faith, and commitment.