Recently my church celebrated confirmation Sunday. This is the Sunday where the confirmands (who are usually 12-13 years old) profess their faith and become full members of the congregation. It is a culmination of one year’s worth of study, mentorship, and discussions. The fruit of those discussions are complied into an affirmation of faith that the entire congregation reads together. And every year I marvel at what a tremendous gift that affirmation of faith is to the congregation. You see these young people are not the future of the church, they are the church today. Their voice is valuable and needed. On this blog I often quote things that have inspired me, anything from hymn lyrics to podcasts to theologians. These confirmands inspired me, so today I will be quoting them.
“We believe in the Holy Spirit…the wind that God sends-we cannot grab it, see it, hold it, or own it, but it helps the world and gives hope. The Holy Spirit is like a GPS which we can follow or ignore: it is on the journey with us and never leaves us.” Look at how beautifully these young people have described the nature of the Holy Spirit. How useful it is to have the modern comparison to the GPS-this makes sense, this is something I can picture. And they’re right. The Holy Spirit is like a GPS. I wonder about the conversation that lead to this line. Was the original suggestion, “The Holy Spirit is like Waze,” then an adult facilitator had to explain that not everyone in the congregation will know what Waze is so is it ok if we say GPS instead?
“We believe the Bible is the biography of God: it is interesting and full of stories we can understand; it makes us think a lot and ask questions; it gives us guidance and uses the past to help us with the future.” If I could summarize my deepest hope for people studying the bible it would be this, I want you to think a lot and ask questions. I truly believe the Bible is a living document, it has something to say to people of every time and place but in order to hear what it says you have to think. And what is the most natural result of thinking? Asking questions.
“We believe human beings are a small part of God’s overall plan…Everyone is created with goodness in them, and everyone blows it.” I am obsessed with the frankness and honesty of youth. I wasn’t present for the conversation that inspired this line but I would guess it went something like, “yeah people can be really good but they also suck sometimes.” “Yeah, sometimes they really blow it.” Don’t get me wrong, I love well-crafted, inspiring prose. I love carefully curated language that specifically articulates a certain point. For example, the Westminster Catechism addresses this same point saying, “No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed.” That is a wonderful line. But just as impactful, “Everyone blows it.”
“We believe being a Christian means we believe in Christ who is unique…being a Christian is worth it.” This is it. This is everything. Being a Christian is worth it. And not just because of some promised hope of glory. Being a Christian is worth it in the here and now, in the mundane and in the extraordinary. Being a Christian is worth it when you are 13 and still worth it when you are 31. It is worth it when you are in the youth group, it’s worth it when you are leading the youth group with your husband, and it is still worth it when you are widowed and watching the youth group from afar. In every circumstance being a Christian is worth it.
“We believe the church is a place of caring and teaching, a calm and generous place where we can go and be ourselves and not be judged; it is a second home.” And cue the tears. Ok, ok, I was crying most of the service but this line really got me. Because this perfectly articulates all that church should be but for so many people this is not what church is. Just watch the Hillsong documentary or listen to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, or talk to someone you know who once attended church but doesn’t anymore. For them, church was not a place they could be themselves, it was not a second home. I am so grateful that these young people describe church in this way. Caring, calm and generous. What aspirational descriptors. What wonderful praise for the adults who have surrounded them, and what a tremendous challenge.
May we all strive to affirm this faith so sincerely articulated by these young people. May our lives bear witness to the truths they have spoken and may their own lives continue to prove what they wrote on this day. And may we all continue to be the church together, one body, many generations, and limitless love. Amen.
One thought on “A Youthful Affirmation of Faith”
Much ink has been spilled as of late documenting the rise of the “none s” or not affiliated, spiritual but not religious, as the fastest growing religious group in America. Not entirely true. In raw numbers the fasting growing religious groups last 30 years in the US have been Islam, Mormons LDS, and Pentecostals Holiness groups, primarily immigrant first generations. All groups have certain things in common. A very definitive life and world view, clear form and structure, and very clear on matters of family, gender, etc. Granted that’s a very tough sell in the post modern post christian, post objective truth culture we live in. But for 30 or so million who identify with these groups currently. Its a data point to consider. Confirmed many many tribes, villages, clusters, groups, gaggles, cliques of young folks over a career. Not entirely sure 12 year old brains are any more or less ready for responsibility or churchy duties than 60 some year olds. but yes, one must admire and respect their energy, faith, and desire to explore. God bless them all.
I currently serve a group of believers from time to time, who actually meet in a basement. Some windows are cracked, some need some TLC. Want AC, open the window. Poor by any church standards. A diverse groups of folks, sometimes 10, sometimes 20 or so folks, we gather, pray, sing, hold hands, pray and some, read scripture, hug and kiss. Cry, rejoice, pray some more. All live, no streaming. And most of my preaching would be considered most subversive by main line standards. Stuff Presbyterians types by and large, have either forgotten, seek refuge behind the mask, or prefer the comforts of their spots in their pews at their church. Ok, that works for you. I doubt it will for your kids or grandkids. I have seen the future of the institutional church, I am living it now. And its not the stained glass, the organ or HVAC, or the endowment. Sorry. Most folks my age are still awaiting the next generations of folks to come up and take their churchy jobs of keeping the bricks and mortars above water. So they can retire from the church boards, as their parents did. Don’t think the kids are coming.