We stood around the font as we confirmed five young people into membership at OPC. That makes all the sense in the world, because for each one of them, others had them baptized; as they confirm what was said for them, the font should be a focal point for this step on the journey. It was an honor to be one of their teachers this year. I was consistently impressed with the depth of our conversations. But I was most impressed when they came before Session a few weeks ago. They brought their corporate statement of faith, which we used in worship (and which is pasted below). And they brought prepared remarks on their own sense of call. But I threw them a curveball: I asked them what they learned this year, how their understanding of their faith had changed. And they each responded. They learned something about their own gifts, perhaps gifts that others recognized in them first. They learned about Jesus, the church, communion, things that they've learned through Sunday School, worship, conversations with friends, even school classes, they learned them in a way that they all became more meaningful. And they learned them in a way that their faith became something they could call their own and live out.
What people claimed for them, what a congregation promised to nurture them for, they claimed for themselves.
Not long ago a good friend shared some of the French Protestant baptismal liturgy, which struck me as particularly fitting for today. In it, the pastor takes the child into their hands, and speaks directly to them:
"For you, little one, the Spirit of God moved over the waters at creation, and the Lord God made covenants with the people. It was for you that the Word of God became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth. For you, Jesus Christ suffered death crying out at the end, 'It is finished!' For you Christ triumphed over death, rose in newness of life, and ascended to rule over all. All of this was done for you, little one, though you do not know any of this yet. But we will continue to tell you this good news until it becomes your own. And so the promise of the gospel is fulfilled: 'We love because God first loved us.'"
For our confirmands, the good news has become their own. Now they join us in telling that story to the world.
Here is the Affirmation of Faith they wrote together:
We believe Scripture is the word of the Lord. Our scripture is found in the Bible, which is a collection of works created by human hands. It provides wisdom, strength, guidance, emotional support, and love for all to understand. It gives us a glimpse of who God is.
We believe God is terrifying, yet forgiving; Almighty, yet comforting. God is Alpha and Omega, the Light that guides, Creator, Parent, Redeemer, and Trinity. Although we try to explain who God is, God is still beyond words.
We believe Jesus is the human form of God that came to share God with all. He is completely human and completely divine. He is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. He taught God’s glory. He died on the cross and forgave our sins. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
We believe the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity but it is hard to describe. It is God’s way of being with us all the time.
We believe the Church is a sanctuary, a place to worship where you feel safe and loved. It is the people that make a church, not a building. Everyone is welcome and it doesn’t discriminate against ethnicity, race, class, gender, or sexual orientation.
We believe that Church is called to teach God’s word, reach out to those who are in need, accept all as children of god, spread the good news through words and actions, and use our gifts to meet the world’s deepest needs.