Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?
I do, by the grace of God.
What confession is that? That one that you made just two questions ago:
Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?
Then you said: “I do.”
May 4th, 2003 – That’s when I took those vows with twenty-some of my peers. To be honest, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what I was saying that day (to be fair I probably still don’t). I was more concerned with making sure I moved to the right place at the right time, not passing out, and wondering when I could get out of that stupid confirmation gown.
To be even more honest, I didn’t really care about what I learned in confirmation class. I went to church because my parents made me (I would have much rather been sleeping). I said the confirmation vows because that’s what was expected of me and everyone else was doing it. For about a year after I took those vows I was probably more of an agnostic than any sort of Lutheran. Yeah, there was probably a god.. but I didn’t really think that did me any good.
But the Word does what it says. Going all the way back to May 28th, 1989, where I was baptized into that faith that I confirmed years later. “Receive the sign of the holy cross…to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.” “Jonathan Daniel, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
BOOM! That just happened with me kicking and screaming the whole time. Okay.. so there wasn’t really a boom. There really wasn’t much of anything exciting. Just an “Amen” spoken. “Yes, it is so” and “gift received” spoken on my behalf. Baptism really is the gift that keeps on giving – daily and much. Daily drowning that Old Adam for a new man in Christ to be raised.
It is extremely sad to see those with whom I attended Lutheran Schools fall away from that confession and renounce their confirmation vows. Some have left the Lutheran Confession for non-denominational churches, others for Mormonism, and still others have rejected faith and all religion completely. Many have suffered far less than death and fallen away from those confirmation vows.
But we fall away too, don’t we? Even if we make the sign of the cross every morning in remembrance of our baptism and are in Divine Service every Sunday, we fall into unbelief. If we really believed, we would love God and love our neighbor. We’d keep the law. But we don’t. We hate our brothers. We covet those things which are not given to us. We despise the Lord’s preaching and Word. The only god we have is ourselves. That’s where we place our trust. The only belief we have is in ourselves, our wants, and our desires.
Unbelief. Idolatry. That’s the place where we run at the sign of any sort of suffering. We don’t run where we should, to those vows that we took confirming the faith given to us in baptism.
By the grace of God – that’s how we continue steadfast in our confession. That is how we can suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it. This confession, this faith, is a gift from the Lord. It isn’t our faith or confession at all. It is Christ’s, graciously given to us.
We don’t deserve it, but this confession is given to us as free gift. Rooted in that confession are the gifts given in baptism: forgiveness of sins and eternal life. My confirmation and first communion went together. In my confirmation, I was also admitted to the Lord’s Supper, to receive the medicine of immortality, in His body and blood.
“We rejoice with thankful hearts that you have been baptized and have received the teaching of the Lord. You have confessed the faith and been absolved of your sins. As you continue to hear the Lord’s Word and receive His blessed Sacrament, He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Jonathan Daniel, the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting. Amen.”
The good work is Christ’s, started and completed by Him. That perfect good work is given to us. That good work is faith. That perfect faith is given to us in baptism, confirmed in confirmation, worthily receives the body and blood of Christ each week, and receives all things as gift from the Lord.
Faith says, “Amen”. Gift received. Confirmation vows as gift. Suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from those confirmation vows? That’s gift too. The worst that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh can do is kill us. They can’t do any worse than that. In Christ, in that faith given in baptism and confirmed on your Confirmation Day, you have already died. You have died in the waters of baptism and been raised to new life in Christ. The only thing that can follow that is faith saying, “Amen. Gift received.”