A Letter To The 2014 Confirmation Class

One of my FAVORITE traditions – a letter to my confirmands on Confirmation Sunday.  Enjoy!

Confirmation 2014

Dear Jonathan, Emily, Jacob, Billy, Olivia, Andrew, Bridgette, Harry, Adam, Brandon & Kaylee,

A few weeks ago, we gathered for our final confirmation dinner and class. One of our tasks that night was to plan worship for the following Sunday.

This was not an easy class. You did not completely understand what I was asking you to do. I did not completely understand why you did not completely understand what I was asking you to do. You felt inadequate when it came to writing a prayer or choosing a scripture. I knew you could do it. Your voices were timid and you let the adult mentors speak when you were unsure of what to say yourself. I might have raised my voice once or twice and poured myself at least four cups of coffee throughout the night.

Eventually we split you into groups and tasked you to write three prayers for that service without help from the mentors. I’ll be honest – as you began to talk amongst yourselves and I walked from group to group, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go. You kept saying that you didn’t know where to start; that you didn’t know what to say; that you didn’t know the fancy church words to use. The paper in front of you remained blank and you all passed the pen or pencil around the group like a hot potato, hoping that someone else would start writing.

But you didn’t give up. You put your heads together and you took it one word at a time. And when one group finished, that group moved to the other groups to see if they needed help. At the end of the night I sat around a long table with all 11 of you so we could edit the prayers together. As we did this, it was immediately clear to me that you WERE capable of writing these prayers (told you so), that you cared about what you had written and that you wanted them to be a reflection of what you believed.

When you had no other choice, you found your voice.

And guess what? This is faith – alive and at work.

This is your faith. This is your faith growing and being nurtured. This is God speaking to you and shaping you into a unique member of the Body of Christ. This is you taking what you’ve learned over the past 14 or 15 years and finally realizing that you have an important voice in your faith, within this church and throughout the world. This is you finally embracing your beliefs; asking questions and not being complacent if you don’t like the answers.

This day – Confirmation Sunday – is not just about the Christian faith – this day is about your faith.

And as much as I want you to remember today, I think I almost want you to remember that last class more. Because I want you to remember that when you had no other choice, you found your voice.

Next time I don’t want you to wait until you have no other choice.

Because you had some pretty incredible things to say.

I know that it isn’t always easy to talk about your faith, especially now. We live in a world where church and state are separate. You can’t talk about church at school. Only 10% of people in New England are part of some kind of a religious community, so a lot of your friends may not even understand what it means to be part of a church. And I’m not saying that this is a bad thing or a good thing, I’m just saying that this is the world that you live in. It is hard to let your faith voice be heard.

But you need to try.

You need to try 1) because you have some pretty incredible things to say and 2) because the world needs people like you, spreading the good news and sharing their faith. The world needs people like you, pushing yourselves outside of your comfort zone and encouraging others to do the same.
The world needs people like you asking questions and not pretending to understand or believe something just because someone tells you to or expects you to. The world needs people who are willing to pray before community suppers, speak openly and honestly in a big group of people and serve the community whenever and wherever they are needed.

Don’t be scared.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” This is from today’s Gospel reading. Remember these words that Jesus spoke; know that you are never alone in this world.

This church has some pretty spectacular Good News to share and today I am charging you to be part of the cloud of witnesses that is sharing it. So open yourselves up to see new things, hear new things, try new things and learn new things. Nurture your faith. Step outside of your comfort zone. Trust your instincts.

And let your voice be heard. Let your voice be heard in this church, in this community and in the world. Let your voice be heard with your friends, at school and in your family. Let your voice be heard so that others can hear it, but – perhaps more importantly – let your voice be heard so that YOU can hear it as well.

Let your voice be heard.

I am so very proud of you.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

p.s. Getting confirmed does NOT mean that you stop coming to church. Let me repeat that. Getting confirmed does NOT mean that you stop coming to church. This is not the end of your faith story; this is the beginning of a new chapter.

Being Strengthened By Our History {Confirmation Worship}

I am not sure if anyone is interested, but here is the worship service I put together for the confirmands on Sunday night …

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Confirmation Worship
March 3, 2013

Opening Words {from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, Liturgies for Year C, Volume 1, Third Sunday in Lent}
{We went around the table and each read one line of this.}

Everyone who thirsts:
Come to the waters,
seek the Lord,
repent and return
so that you may live.
All who are hungry for righteousness:
Come to the waters,
seek the Lord,
repent and return
so that you may live.
All who need the help of God:
Come to the waters,
seek the Lord,
repent and return
so that you may live.

Prayer For Illumination {from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, Liturgies for Year C, Volume 1, Third Sunday in Lent}
{We read this in unison.}

Bring your word near to us, O God.
May it rest not only on our lips,
But also reside in our hearts.
By the power of your Holy Spirit,
Help us to respond to your word
With our whole lives
Until you become our dwelling place;
Through Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Scriptures
{These were the lectionary texts for that week. There are four confirmands this year so each confirmand read one of the scriptures.}

Isaiah 55:1-3
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:9-13
Luke 13:6-9

Reflection

Faith Works, by Jim Wallis
{This is a selection from a longer article.  The full text can be found in the book, The Impossible Will Take A Little While: a citizen’s guide to hope in a time of fear, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb.  Here is a link to it on amazon.)

Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change. That’s what I’ve learned after almost three decades of working for change as a person of faith. What do I mean by faith? I like the definition used by the biblical writer of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Simply put, faith makes hope possible. And hope is the single most important ingredient for changing the world.

Many people today would like to find some way to practice their faith or spirituality, despite the excesses, corruption, or narrow regulations of religion that have turned them away. I believe the making of the modern Christian, Jew, or Muslim will be through action. When put into action, faith has the capacity to bring people together, to motivate, and to inspire, even across former dividing lines. We demonstrate our faith by putting into practice. Conversely, if we don’t keep the power of faith in the actions we undertake, our efforts can easily lead to burnout, bitterness, and despair. The call to action can preserve the authenticity of faith, while the power of faith can save the integrity of our actions. As the biblical apostle James put it, “Faith without works is dead.”

Today, I see a new kind of activist emerging. Not one who is angry or burned out, but one whose belief that things can be different goes deeper than a passing optimism. We’ve had plenty of very sophisticated analysis of what’s wrong with the world, much of it quite helpful. But what’s often been missing is the vision to help people connect the desire to change their lives with a commitment to change their communities. That vision will likely be rooted in moral and spiritual values.

Sing Me Home, by Tim McGraw
{We listened to this song and afterwards I talked about how our church is “home” for them and how they are part of the history that is still unfolding!}

Closing Blessing {from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, Liturgies for Year C, Volume 1, Third Sunday in Lent}
{We read this in unison.}

God, my dwelling place, as the shadows fall, I rest in you.
Thank you for the faith that held me fast this day.
Thank you, too, for every person who offered me grace, and for those to whom I could also show grace.
I pray this night for all who long to see a sign of your power in the darkness that surrounds them.
Be near to them and show them your salvation.
And in the morning when I rise, give me your work to do for another day;
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Then And Now {Confirmation Worship Space}

I adore teaching confirmation (have I mentioned that before?).  We met this past Sunday and talked about the history of our church.  We closed with worship and this is how I set up the space …

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The table was out from communion that morning, but since the class is small and we were down one mentor I decided to just have us sit around the table. It was nice!

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I used mirrors as my base for two reasons:
1. I wanted the light from the candles to reflect off of them
2. I wanted the sanctuary to be reflected in our worship service.

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It worked! Look at the stained glass in the mirror! So cool.

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My office admin and I were looking for something the other day and came across these old building keys. I put them in the center of the worship space and then added my building keys when we began our worship service.

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How is your life a reflection of the history that surrounds you?

My friends in the northeast – stay warm today!  It’s snowy outside!