Imagine you’re hiking a mountain. You set off through a thick forest of pine and aspen groves. The heavy trees and twisting trail make it difficult to see much beyond your immediate vicinity. As you climb, your legs and lungs begin to burn. You start to wonder if this was a good idea. But then you come to the first clearing. And the view takes your breath away. Forgetting the fatigue, you can’t wait to see it from the top.
Confirmation in the Christian Church is like coming into this first clearing. The confirmand hasn’t reached the goal of the journey, but a significant checkpoint. Some Christian traditions include confirmation as a one of the sacraments, such as the Roman Catholic Church. Other Christian traditions, like the Lutheran Church, don’t see it as a sacrament. Rather, it’s a response to the Sacrament of Baptism. It is a time for those baptized into Christ to stand and publicly acknowledge before God and all people that they gratefully receive their Baptism as a gift that never stops giving. Included in God’s promise at Baptism are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, fellowship in God’s family as an adopted son or daughter, and a place in Christ’s Kingdom that will never end. Like coming into a clearing, confirmation helps us push through the fatigue and keep moving toward the goal.
Sadly, the practice of Confirmation has often been taken hostage by another metaphor. Too often confirmation is treated like a graduation. When graduates get their diplomas, many say, “I am so glad to be done with that.” Graduated means done. This is a very different feeling compared to coming into that clearing. There, we said, “Wow, look how far we’ve come.” And after pausing for a moment to enjoy the view, we’re ready to get moving again.
We are on a similar kind of climb with Jesus. But rather than up a mountain, Jesus is leading us into life—true life, life as God had always intended it. We’re on the way to life with God in His kingdom that is coming on earth as it is in heaven. On May 13th, we celebrated the confirmation of Will, Susie, Hannah, Derek, and Elise. We paused for a moment to take in the view and say to them, “Look how far you have come!” And together we confessed, “We didn’t come this far to stop now.”