Friday, April 25, 2008
This Sunday five young people will make their public confession of Christ in the Rite of Confirmation at St. Peter congregation. Mixed emotions often accompany this event for me as a pastor. Confirmation for Lutherans, unlike Roman Catholics, is not a sacrament. Nevertheless, this rite frequently attracts the kind of attention one would think appropriate and expected for sacramental actions. Although it finds its meaning within the reality of Holy Baptism, it seems too often to eclipse this sacrament and the blessings originally received, by the attention given to it.
If you talk to some Lutherans you may very well get the impression that Confirmation is a kind of 'rite of passage.' Here once effectively graduates from the drudgery of compulsory Sunday School attendance. Except for the occasional ushering duty, it allows one to now see church attendance according to convenience of the young person, and Bible study as purely optional. Parents, who knew the need to push their child so as to 'qualify' for confirmation, now step back with a huge sigh of relief, paranoid that if they push further the child will be alienated forever from the church.
Yet, how have we come to this point? Has the church unwittingly communicated the wrong message by all this attention, and failed to really help the child appreciate his or her true place in the assembly? Have we brought the baptized to the Table for the body and blood of Christ, only to leave them with the impression that their need for spiritual nourishment was only for that moment (and that they can now 'coast' on the 'grace' of confirmation until death)? Is this an issue primarily of the home, where parents encourage one thing and model something entirely different, effectively undoing whatever was attempted in the past two or three years of confirmation instruction? Or does part of the problem lie with our modern dilemma of adolescence where the young person is neither child nor adult, with even fewer expectations that they had before? Perhaps it is a combination of all the above and even more.
This Sunday will be a glorious occasion, and as always, I will be caught up in the festive nature of the day, forgetting for a moment my frustrations with the eventual outcome. Perhaps my dear readers may provide some wisdom and insight as I prepare for another year.