A Confirmation Blessing

The following is a confirmation blessing I wrote in honor of my niece, Meara, who is professing her faith today. I had the privilege of baptizing her in 2004 (my second ever baptism) and now I am here in Minnesota to be part of her big day. I pray that God may work in her heart to bring glory to his name through her life.


Today you profess your faith,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
May your light shine ever bright,
With him you are adored.

Stand firm and never back down,
Though Satan push against.
For God is your strong fortress,
Through Jesus he’s dispensed.

You are His beloved child,
Forever in His arms.
So don’t ever fear or fret,
With Him will come no harm.

So proclaim your faith boldly,
And never be ashamed.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
You are forever claimed.

Your “Confirmation” Journey

The following is my article for our October newsletter:

As I write this newsletter article, I am also in the midst of preparing for another year of confirmation. First up is 6th grade orientation. And so I am working on putting together the confirmation packets for these new students and their parents. These packets have everything they need to know about the 3 year confirmation experience at Salem.

Part of the confirmation experience is completing requirements. There are 10 Bible verses the kids need to memorize. They need to know their Catechism (Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, 10 Commandments, Baptism and Holy Communion). They need to do Bible reading. They need to serve as acolytes and prepare worship notes. They also need to perform service projects. And, of course, they need to attend weekly classes. A lot of things and I am sure many of you have your own confirmations stories (and in some cases, horror stories). The students have three years to complete these requirements.

After I present the requirements to the students and parents, I ask if these are reasonable. Every time, people say “yes”. And why wouldn’t they be reasonable? The requirements that are laid out for the students are the same things I encourage any Christian (adult/youth) to do. I mean, think about it; all these requirements are things that any and every Christian should find joy in doing because of what God has done for them in Jesus. It should be a joy for the Christian to worship, participate in worship and listen intently to the Word. It should be a joy for the Christian to memorize scripture and read their Bible. It should be a joy for the Christian to perform service projects. It should be a joy for a Christian to attend classes and Bible studies. So really, part of confirmation is about teaching kids how to live as Christians; not to impose a set a requirements in order for them to achieve the title, “Confirmed”.

As a Christian, each and every one of you should be considered a “confirmation student”; for the journey of faith is something that should never end. It’s the reason I don’t have confirmands wear white robes when they get confirmed. To me it looks too much like graduation and I don’t want them to think they are done with church; done with their relationship with God. Confirmation is simply a public affirmation of faith and a public commitment to continue to draw closer to God. So therefore, no robes. No graduation.

And you, too, those taking the time to read this article to the end, your journey of faith is never a completed set of requirements but rather should be a joyful journey with your Savior. The difference now is that there is no one checking off when you complete a “requirement”. God definitely isn’t, but don’t let that lead you to become complacent. So as we begin another year of confirmation I encourage you to consider your “requirements” and evaluate how you are doing. Do you need some guidance? Do you need some accountability? Give me call, I’ll sign you up 🙂

The Pastor -|—

Summer Top Ten List

Yesterday (May 7) was the last day of confirmation for the school year; and what a great year it has been.

The following is a top ten list of things I gave my students, at the end of class, to do over the summer. Not requirements but things to think about as they continue their faith journey; a journey that never ends.  And as I read through this I thought I would share this with you.  They are things that apply to all of us and ones that I will be posting in my office as a constant reminder for me.

So here you go (in no particular order)…
(10) Worship (God the Father, almighty, Creator of heaven and earth)
~ Worship is not a requirement but something that flows out of your faith. We don’t worship because we have to but because we get to.

(9) Read your Bible
~ Bible reading should also be a joy.
~ If you want help staying on course find a partner to read with and hold each other accountable. Talk about about what you read and explore together.

(8) Pray
~ You can’t have a vibrant, healthy relationship with someone if you don’t spend time together.
~ Know that I will continue to be praying for each of you by name.

(7) Make the most of opportunities to share your faith
~ I dare you to ask God to give you an opportunity to share your faith with someone. I have found that God is more than happy to give you opportunities. What you do with them is your choice, but remember, it could be a matter of life or death for that person.

(6) Memorize scripture
~ And not just your “required” memory work. I challenge you to memorize Bible verses as a way of life. You just might be surprised by how God will use those verses in your life to bring Him glory.

(5) Do random acts of kindness
~ Mess with people’s heads (in a good way) by showing the love of Christ.

(4) Deflect praise
~ When someone praises you for something, remember who gave you the ability to do the thing you are being praised for.  Instead of saying “thank you” say, “praise be to God”. I am willing to bet that you will catch their attention; and what a way to share your faith.

(3) Quiet time
~ Take time out of your busy schedule to just think about God, talk and listen to Him, journal and enjoy God’s company.
~ When you are day dreaming about God you are never wasting time ~ but be careful about this if you are supposed to be working 🙂

(2) Be brave
~ When your faith is challenged, stand strong. You have the God of all creation by your side. Even if everyone around you is against you and says your wrong; be brave. God is not wrong.

(1) Remember
~ Remember that God loves you beyond anything you can possibly comprehend.

Blessed be the journey 🙂

The pastor -|—

Ministering to children

Gracious God, I have just been struck with the awareness of the awesome responsibility that is looming; children coming to this church building to see you.  Twenty one 3 – 5th graders coming soon;  8 confirmation students later this afternoon and 40 some Wednesday Night Live students tonight.  God…bless everyone of those students that they may see you.  Bless the teachers that will be teaching those students.

Gracious God, I am thankful that you have placed me here in this place.  I am thankful that you have found me worthy to minister to these children.  I am thankful that you walk along side of me during these times.  May you be glorified in my words and actions.  Grant me patience and wisdom as I interact with these great kids.

So…here we go.  Let’s have some fun.

Amen!

The pastor -|—

You got to want it

I am working on a confirmation lesson plan about confession and as part of that lesson we are going to be reading Psalm 19.

[Pause here and go read that 15 verse Psalm.  Cue Jeopardy theme…]

Did you read it?  Seriously…did you read Psalm 19 and meditate on it?  I could make life easier for you and just include the text in this post, but part of me is feeling feisty today so no easy way out for you.  I want you to actually open your Bible to read the scripture text.  Online or on your smartphone is fine, just read the text.

O.K…I’m ready to move on…

I read Psalm 19 yesterday and started jotting down some teaching points for the class.  I wrote a couple questions that I want to ask.  I mulled over how the discussion might go.  I started anticipating some questions my students might ask.  But I got stuck on what the psalmist was doing.  Not stuck on how I want to teach this Psalm and the topic of confession, but I got stuck because of what it was saying to ME.

[Scripture has a funny way of doing that sometimes.]

In verses 1 – 6 I hear the psalmist saying how awesome God is.  When you look around you can’t help but see the majesty of God.  You can’t help but see the awesome power of God; written in the sky and in all of creation.  God is so worthy of our worship and praise.  And this I know, but when someone makes you stop and pay attention; it hits you…again.

In verses 7 – 11 I hear the psalmist singing the praises of God for how awesome His Law is.  God’s Law is right and just and perfect and trustworthy and radiant and pure and righteous and sure and…(I’m sure we could go on and on).  God’s Law is precious and worthy to be followed and obeyed.  And this I know, but once again it is being held up before my eyes as I see it anew.

Last but not least, the psalmist confesses his sins in verses 12-13.  And in verse 14 I am captured by these words: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” A statement pointing to the psalmist’s humility before God.

Wow…is this where I am at when I come before God confessing my sins?

If God is not awesome and worthy in your sight what motivation is there to confess anything.  Confession can’t be a checklist item.  It can’t be something done out of coercion.  Confession of sins needs to be a humbling and heartfelt act of worship before a holy and gracious God.  If it is anything less than that we are just fooling ourselves (and definitely not fooling God). Basically…you got to want it.

The power of God’s awesome forgiveness can only be known through a heartfelt sense of our unworthiness and  sinfulness.  Look around.  God is everywhere.  God’s glory is being proclaimed through creation.  Meditate on that. Meditate on the fact that you do not deserve forgiveness, but because of Jesus forgiveness is offered.

Wow…that is amazing! That is Good News!

So…have you read Psalm 19 yet?  Do it.  Confess for your sins.  And know God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ our risen Lord and Savior.

The pastor -|—

Back at it

Wow…where did the summer go?

I have heard that question a number of times this week already.  The start of school has a way of awakening people to the reality of the quick passage of time. It almost feels like school just got out and now the kids are back.

For me, school beginning means that activities at church will be gearing up shortly:
~ On Sept 12 I will be welcoming back my 3 – 5th graders to release time.  Me with 20+ kids…sounds scary but I survived that number last year so I feel ready for them this year.   Bring them on 🙂
~ On Sept 19 we will be welcoming back our Wednesday Night Live (“Sunday school”) kids.  I am not directly involved here but I really enjoy connecting with these kids and their families.
~ On Sept 26 I will be welcoming back my confirmation class along with a couple new students.  Walking with these kids in their faith journey is an incredible privilege.
~ On Oct 3 we will be beginning a Wednesday evening worship opportunity.  I am not quite sure how this will look yet, but I am looking forward to this time.
~ And…the other seasonal activities that take place.

It is always nice to have a “summer break” but I do look forward to the craziness of all the activities that will be starting shortly.  I am looking forward to longer and fuller days. I am looking forward to ministering to the kids.  I am looking forward to teaching again.  Basically…I am looking forward to all that this season will bring.  If I didn’t look forward to this then I would either need to re-examine my call here or my call as a pastor.

Many people in Minnesota enjoy the change of seasons; knowing that a different season will be coming shortly with all its own uniqueness and beauty.  Maybe this ebb and flow of the year is what keeps things fresh and exciting for people.  No matter what profession you are in you need things to be “mixed up” once in a while.  Change can be good and refreshing.

So with that…when May 2013 rolls around I will be ready for a break from THIS season, but when September 2013 arrives…I will be ready and looking forward to that new, different and unique season.  And so on and so on…

You get the point.

But before I jump to far ahead of myself I am going to enjoy the ride that this season will bring; trusting God will give me strength and wisdom.  I can hardly wait to see what God is up to and how God will use the various people involved in this ministry.  In the end, God will be glorified.

So bring on fall 2012…I am ready 🙂

edh -|—

Exploring confirmation

Hey all…I am doing some rethinking of confirmation and would welcome your thoughts and feedback.  Last month I started a series of articles for our church newsletter to help people think about what confirmation is; why we do it, etc.  A number of questions have been running around in my head.  And this is a good time since I won’t have a confirmand for a couple years.

Below is the article that I wrote and turned in today that will be coming out in the August newsletter.

What is confirmation and why do we do it?
Those were the two questions I challenged you to consider last month.  How many of you did your “homework”?  Now let’s be honest…did you really consider those questions or did you just blow them off as something that isn’t all that important or figured Pastor Eric would write about it so why bother think about them?  I hope you did think about them because I would venture to say that a good number of you have either confirmation students, kids that will be in confirmation, grandchildren in confirmation or know of someone in confirmation.  And I am not even mentioning the fact that most of you have gone through confirmation yourselves.  So let’s start with that category ~ those who have gone through confirmation.

Those of you who have gone through confirmation answer this question:  Why confirmation?  My guess is that your answer will be “because mom and dad said so”.  And I would also venture a guess that is the reason for many students today.  Don’t get me wrong…I have had students who actually wanted to be in confirmation and enjoyed it.  But the fact that many attend because of mom and dad is not all that bad.  It actually shows mom and dad are following through with promises they made when their children were baptized.

You see…when children are baptized they generally have no clue what is going on; they generally have no memory of the event (I am assuming infant baptism here of course).  So during the service the parents and sponsors confess the faith for their child and then promise to raise them in the faith.  They promise to place in their hands the Holy Scriptures, bring them to the services of God’s house, teach them the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the 10 Commandment, to bring them to Sunday school…and confirmation.  Basically…parents promise to ensure that their children learn about God, so much so, that they can someday make their own confession of faith.  Confirmation helps students down this road.  So it is not bad that kids are in confirmation because mom and dad say so.

I have described briefly the “What” and “Why” of confirmation but there is still another issue that needs to be addressed.  As I mentioned, parents are responsible to teach their children the faith.  This happens so that their children “…may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.” (Service of Holy Baptism, ELW pg. 228)  No where in that description does it say that they need to make sure their children make a confession of faith but yet I fear that we, as a church, are doing that very thing.  Students are brought to a confirmation service at a particular time of the year at a certain point in their lives.  They are brought to the service and expected to make a confession of faith ~ ready or not.  Students are to stand up front as the pastor asks them questions.  They are told to respond “Yes, by the help of God”.  But what if their answer is “No”?  What if they say that they do not believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit? What if we are forcing students to confess a faith they don’t believe in?  What if they need more time?  What if?

I can’t help but to wonder if we have turned confirmation into a rite of passage in the church rather than a celebration of faith.  As a church and as parents we are doing the very thing we need to do but are we taking it too far?  Are we driving kids away from the church by forcing them into a service and confession of faith that cheapens the Gospel?  Are we making ourselves out as hypocrites by turning the Good News of the Gospel into something that is “forced”?  So with that I am lead to a couple more questions; questions I would like you to consider for next month:  (1) When should it (confirmation) happen and (2) Who should it (really) involve?  Don’t cheat this time…actually do your homework and answer these questions.  Let me know what you think ~ I really want to hear from you.

Next month I will dive into confirmation a little more deeply and challenge you.  Stay tuned and let’s talk…

-edh-