Sunday May 12 at Trinity Lutheran Church is one of those Sundays that, as we like to say, has a lot of “moving parts.” This Sunday is Mother’s Day! It’s also the one Sunday of the year that we celebrate Jesus as our Good Shepherd. But this Sunday will be especially meaningful for at least eight people of our church family. In the 8 AM service, Jaden Arnold, Lillian Canter, Keilah Hernandez-Chacon, Dylan Huntt, Lauren Kansy and Elissa Shumaker will all, by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them, say “yes” to the promises their parents made when they were baptized. In the 11 AM service, Rob Stokes and son Jackson will similarly respond to the work of the resurrected Lord Jesus in them as they are received into membership with Rob’s wife Kristina and daughter Sydney. If there’s a Sunday in the life of our congregation that it’s appropriate to discuss what it means to have our faith confirmed, then surely this is the day.
So when I first looked at the selected readings for today a while ago and saw the episode of St. Paul’s farewell speech at Miletus (you can read it by clicking here), my first thought was that making the connection between this passage and the Confirmation of several people of our congregation would be a challenge. But the more I read it and really thought about it, the more I celebrated this little speech of Paul. It’s his only speech in the entire book of Acts which is spoken exclusively to Christ-followers. And as Paul commends his listeners to “God and to the Word of His grace” (20:32), he does at least two other things that are helpful to hear for anyone poised to embark on a new chapter of his or her own faith journey: First, Paul warns his charges that it’s not a matter of if, but when they will face times of trial (30; cf. 23). There will be other voices (“fierce wolves”) who will try to drown out the voice of the Good Shepherd in their lives and the lives of others they may touch. But (and here’s the really good part), when that time of trial comes, the Word of God’s forgiveness in Christ will be able “to build [them] up and give [them] an inheritance among…the sanctified” (32). God’s Word is and will always be, quite literally, their lifeline. So as long as each of them remain planted where God’s life-giving Word is, he/she will be like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” (Psalm 1:3). That is God’s promise. Life that really matters isn’t ours for the taking; it is God’s to give, for our receiving.
So Confirmation is less about finishing than it is about beginning. Yes, the regular Catechism classes may be over, at least for now. But now is when our Confirmands’ lives of growth and being built up in God’s Word really start to get underway! Now we commend them to God’s nurturing in a world that (let’s face it) isn’t always so friendly to people of faith. The Good News is that our Good Shepherd…and the sheep that He leads (other forgiven sinners like us)…will always be close at hand to strengthen and encourage.
What an adventure it will be. Congratulations, all!