I've gotten the opportunity to teach our youth about the faith in preparation for some of them to be confirmed later this year. It's a pretty awesome opportunity for me. I've avoided involvement with youth for a few years now after feeling like I botched everything in my internship during my early seminary career. I probably didn't do as bad as I feel, but I certainly do as well as I could have for the most part.
Anyway, I've done one class which was more of an introduction to the concept of confirmation. The one thing that I didn't get to mention was this great quote that AnalogReigns put me on to: We are reborn in baptism for life, and we are confirmed after baptism for strife (quote comes from St. Faustus of Riez, which is printed in the article "Children, Confirmation, and Communion" published in The Anglican Way Summer 2013 issue found here). However, I think that I captured this concept well in what I said which is posted below:
There are two questions that I want to answer tonight. What is confirmation? Why confirmation? The reason I ask them back to back is that they go together. The what of confirmation gives us the why of confirmation; the why of confirmation gives us the what of confirmation. Really, these two questions are two sides of the same coin.
I’ll start with the first one: Confirmation is a rite, or a ritual, you might say, in which the bishop lays hands on someone and prays for them to receive the strengthening work of the Holy Spirit. The reason the bishop does this is because he is our primary spiritual authority. God has given him charge for our care. The reason that Randy is our priest at King of Kings is because the bishop has delegated aspects of his authority to Randy to provide our immediate pastoral care, but ultimately, that care rests with the bishop. Because that care ultimately rests with the bishop, he retains the care in regard to confirming you. When he confirms you, he is recognizing and blessing your faith and in doing that he seeks God’s mercy to maintain that faith throughout your lives.
So, we have an explanation for what Confirmation is, but why should we submit to confirmation? Why does the bishop seek God’s mercy on our behalf; with regard to our faith? The reason is because it is God who gives you that very faith and thus only God can maintain it. We don’t presume upon God’s grace by acting as though we can do anything we want after God gives us faith. Instead we seek after God’s mercy, always recognizing that in ourselves, left to ourselves, we would always forsake God, but by the Spirit he has given to us. How did God first give us His Spirit? The Holy Spirit was given to us through the Word and Sacrament. Paul says in Romans 10:12-17 that
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Here we see that it is through the hearing and preaching of God’s word that we are enabled to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. We also see though that this salvation is connected to the sacraments as well. In Acts, Peter tells the people to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and the people would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Supper is also referenced as a place where forgiveness of sins is known. There is nothing inherent in the actions in and of themselves, but they are means that God has chosen to work in us. Hence through hearing God’s word and receiving his sacraments, God works faith into us and when we abide in those things, he strengthens and enlivens that faith.
Confirmation is not a sacrament in our church. It is an important even though. In it we acknowledge that the faith we have is a gift of God and being a gift of God, only God can maintain it, only God can preserve our faith that we might persevere in the faith he gave to us. We acknowledge this preservation nearly every week in the Collect of the Day. Listen to them and hear about how we are always asking the Father to keep us in Christ, to fill us with His Spirit that we might forsake sin. For example last weeks collect asked God to graft or put in us love for Him, to nourish us with His goodness and to bring forth the fruit of good works. Today’s collect asked God to grant us to trust him with our whole hearts and tells us that God will never forsake those who boast in his mercy. The psalm that I read to start this spoke of the same things and even confesses that God can give us faith even before we are born! Faith is God’s gift to us and He is the one who keeps us safe in it.
To sum up the what and why of confirmation, I give you this final definition: Confirmation is a recognition not only of a need to publicly acknowledge one's faith, that has been freely given from God, but a deep recognition of one's need for the work of the Holy Spirit, freely given through Word and Sacrament, in one’s life for strength, continuing renewal, and increase in faith that we might never forsake our Lord Jesus.