“The Meaning of Confirmation”
Rev’d. Tanya Stormo Rasmussen
Congregational Church of Hollis, U.C.C.
7 June, 2020
Confirmation Sunday/Trinity Sunday
Matthew 28:16-20

Today, we are celebrating the ways in which our congregation is continuing to live out what we call The Great Commission, which we find in today’s Revised Common Lectionary reading from Matthew’s gospel.  According to Matthew, in Jesus’ final resurrection appearance to his followers before he disappeared from their physical presence, the very last words Jesus said to his disciples were instructions and encouragement to make more disciples by baptizing and showing others how to follow his teachings and example.  And that is what our church family has been doing.  By the testimony of our confirmands themselves, all of you gathered here this morning have helped to shape and nurture these young disciples.

Here’s what one confirmand wrote: I am being confirmed because my parents and I want me to be confirmed.  Another reason is that my dad was never confirmed, so he thought that it would be a good idea for me to be confirmed. I guess I don’t really have to point out that parents generally have an outsized role in helping our children to become disciples, guiding them to understand and appreciate the teachings of Jesus.  But, this young person acknowledged that it was more than just parents who played a role.  Also,” the confirmand wrote, “I have been attending Sunday school ever since I was in the second grade, so I have been a part of the church for a while now.  Being a full part of this community is another reason for me getting confirmed.  But in the end, my main reason for wanting to be confirmed is that I believe in this faith.[1]

Another Confirmand started their statement by describing their experience of God’s love in their life, and then elaborated on the ways the church has helped to confirm Jesus’ promise that he will be with us always.  This one wrote: The love that God provides is unconditional. … I believe that God has played a big part in my life.  The church and the church community have helped to shape my life into the person that I am today.  I have learned a lot during my pre-confirmation and confirmation classes and am thankful for the foundation of faith that I have gained.  Though I am not sure what my next steps will be, I feel confident that God will be there for me every step of the way.[2]

One of you reflected on the ways you’re recognizing that just as God cannot be confined to a single place, neither can the Church.  You wrote, Churches also symbolize faith, hope, and love.  To me, a church isn’t just a building… A church can be anywhere, such as in our homes.  During this time of Quarantine, we are worshipping in our own homes, and homes are our churches.  Did you know that the first churches actually started in homes?  The original church communities were quite small, which is one of the ways we grew in our self-understanding of being a ‘faith family’—not just literal brothers and sisters, but spiritually so.  But I think you may already understand that because you wrote: I want to confirm my faith to strengthen my relationship with God and Jesus and to continue learning and growing within my church community.  I want to be a member of the Congregational Church of Hollis as this is an extension of my family. Family is very important to me, and so is creating a lifetime relationship with God.[3]

A lifetime relationship with God is what discipleship is all about.  Another one of you clearly understands that our lifetime relationship with God is helped by a lifetime relationship with your church.  You wrote: Being confirmed does not just mean being involved with your church more; it means taking on the responsibilities of being a person who is an active participant in their church community.  As a new member of the Congregational Church of Hollis, I look forward to doing this.[4]  And we look forward to welcoming each of you and your participation in new ways as you continue to grow and learn!

I recently heard another young member of our church acknowledge that, There’s this idea that once you’re confirmed, you’ve learned all you can or all you need to know from the church. So that’s why a lot of kids stop coming after they’ve been confirmed.  Certainly, I hope none of you feel like you’re done learning about faith and life, about your relationship with God and community, or life and love in the Spirit of Christ, any more than your school teachers think that high school or college graduation represents the end of your academic learning.

As we celebrate Confirmation Sunday today, the Church’s liturgical calendar identifies it as Trinity Sunday.  The Church throughout the world observes Trinity Sunday on the week after Pentecost.  And that’s in no small part due to Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel—about going and making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Because prior to the revelation of Jesus being the Son and incarnate Word of God, and his fulfilled promise to send the Holy Spirit, the world hadn’t understood God as being triune, as Trinity.  And the Trinity is not easy to explain—how can three persons be One?  It’s one of the holy mysteries at the heart of our incarnational faith.  Each of you confirmands wrote about this.

I particularly appreciated how beautifully one of you expressed your understanding of the first two persons of the Trinity.  You wrote: I believe that God is all-knowing and all powerful.  He/She is the Creator and loves all of their creations equally, and has created this beautiful world for us.  I think that God is someone that you can always trust, knowing that there is a reason behind all of his/her actions.  God has been with us through this pandemic, and will help to support us as we restructure our lives after it.  Next, I know that Jesus is the Son of God, and he is the Messiah.  He was sent to Earth to do good, and I believe that he did do good by teaching people the true ways of God.  I believe that people can learn a lot from his stories/ the Bible.  People in our communities should take his lessons and apply them to their lives daily, not just when it is convenient to them.  While this may seem difficult, it will help us in our journey through life.[5]

Another of you had a really lovely explanation of the Holy Spirit.  You wrote: I believe the Holy Spirit is part of the Holy Trinity and is God’s force, or power in action.  And you brought it back to the Church, which is where we remember and acknowledge all three persons – the community of the Trinity – in the celebration of our two sacraments, baptism and communion.  You concluded: I think the Church is where we can be baptized and remember God’s teachings through communion and more importantly, church brings people together.[6]  {The Church is where three persons of the Trinity are One, and where we as God’s people of faith continue to live out that mystery in community.}

One of your classmates who chose not to be confirmed wrote a letter to me and your Confirmation teachers.  The opening words were, I feel that I should expand on my decision not to be confirmed as a member of our Church.  And I use the phrase ‘our Church’ very deliberately.  Even though I am not becoming a confirmed member of the Church at this time, I am still very much at home at and a part of the Congregational Church of Hollis.  And it will be my Church unless/until something else takes its place.  After recounting a handful of ways in which the church has been a fixture in their life—just as several of you pointed out that it has been for you—this articulate young member of our community wrote, In so many ways, the calendar and rhythm of the Church have been important sources of structure and continuity and meaning in my life.[7]

I love the fact that your teachers and parents and this congregation have helped all of you to understand that life in this Christian community is not so much about having the “right answers” as it is about learning to live the questions of faith.  That you know you will not be excluded if your conscience will not allow you to claim or affirm things that do not yet appear to be true to you.  Jesus’ first disciples did not have all the answers. (Not a single one of them ever have, in fact!)  Some of them were even explicit about their doubts.  And down through the ages, healthy expressions of Church have always demonstrated a wide-open circle, always eager to welcome another sojourner with questions and experiences of God to share and learn from together.

Confirmands—and every member of this community—as you continue to grow and learn, as your unique life and experiences continue to shape and mold your mind, body, and spirit, don’t forget that the very last words of Jesus – of God’s love in human form – were, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

A final quote from one of the confirmands.  They wrote, I am choosing to be confirmed at this time to strengthen my connection with God.  To me getting confirmed means committing to live my life to the fullest under God’s glorifying love.[8] To all of you confirming your faith today, and to each of you re-affirming the faith you confirmed long ago; to each one of us as we confirm our faith every single day by the way we live, may the sacrifice and joy of a life where Love is at the center, and above you and beneath you and within you, enable you truly to live life to the fullest.

I want to conclude my reflection by inviting you to listen to someone that a number of us are paying attention to this month.  She wrote a book called Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Learning to Love the Bible Again, which I’ve invited our entire congregation to read.  I think even teenagers would love it.  Her name is Rachel Held Evans, and I think her message about the meaning of Confirmation is worth hearing and remembering.  [Play 3:15 video clip The Work of the People’s “Recognizing the Story” at www.theworkofthepeople.com]

[1] Nicholas Kutschke

[2] Owen Damon

[3] Aaron Bergeron

[4] Jack Brosnan

[5] Calla Kutschke

[6] Ella Gilbert, emphasis mine.

[7] Rowen Hildreth

[8] Savannah Duquette

© 2020 The Congregational Church of Hollis, UCC