Five young people have just confirmed their faith. (The date was 8 June 2014.) They stood before us and took for themselves the promises someone made for them at their baptisms. They made a choice. And now it may be the preacher’s job to be quiet and to get out of the way and to let the choice these young people made speak for itself.
“More than at any other time in history,” Woody Allen said in a commencement address years ago, “mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Well, it’s not much of a choice, is it? Sometimes it seems that’s the only choice life gives us, a choice between bad and worse.
These young people remind us there’s another choice to be made. They did not make a choice between the alternatives life put in front of them; they made a choice that creates new alternatives and will shape the future. They made a choice that creates who they are and even creates the world in which they live.
The choice they made was to identify and confirm their faith, not to conform their faith to that of their parents or anyone else. Confirmation is not a process of dressing up a new generation of disciples in the wardrobe of any previous generation’s faith. It’s a time when a new generation claims an original relationship with God that is authentic for their lives in their time. And I think these young people have done that, though it may take a while, perhaps even a long while, to see the fruits of that choice.
Many Christians don’t really want the Christian faith; they merely want enough of it to feel good about themselves and to be comfortable in life. They don’t want a faith that disturbs their status quo and the way they’ve been living. If these young disciples have chosen well and wisely, the faith they’ve confirmed will change the way they live their lives, and it will change the world around them. You and I are going to watch to see if that happens and to encourage them as it does. Here’s how one person’s faith made a difference.
This fellow didn’t like the direction the church was going. He felt it didn’t have much life. It wasn’t doing the things that a church ought to be doing. It wasn’t praying enough and serving enough. It wasn’t studying the Bible enough. So he started a small group in the church, and pretty soon it started to catch on and change things and shake things up. And he started to speak about his faith to others, and people started responding. He was the talk of the town.
Well, his church was none too pleased with all this excitement and with all this change. They got annoyed with this group and with its leader. And what did the church do? They wouldn’t allow him to speak in worship anymore. The fellow’s name? John Wesley. And the group he started came to be known as Methodists!
Jesus said that when someone believes in him, when someone deeply and truly trusts him and the life he offers, a might stream of living water – a living faith – will flow out of the center of that person’s life. It will be a stream mighty enough to move the boulders of “we’ve always done it that way” and cut a new channel through the mountain of “we’ve never done it that way before.” It will wash away the silt of complacency, and it will cleanse and freshen the backwater eddies where change has become something to fear.
Today five young disciples have begun a new season of life and growth. They have taken one more step in the life-long journey of faith that leads toward their perfection in love, that leads toward their growth into the full stature of Christ (Heb. 6:1; Eph. 4:13). They have chosen to be the people God is making them in a world that’s constantly trying to make them something else. The question for the rest of us is not only whether we will support them in their journey but whether we will listen to them and learn from them.