Confirmation Sunday – 23 September 2012
Our text is Mark 1:14-20
Confirmation is a public declaration of faith in Christ by a person who has been baptized.
Some of the folk we are confirming were baptized a few hours ago; some were baptized many years ago. I want to commend the parents who have been an integral part of bringing these young folk to this point in their lives.
This is the public declaration of our faith, it is telling others what Jesus has done for us, it is telling others what we are doing for Jesus.
On this Baptism and Confirmation Sunday, I want us to allow ourselves to be reminded of what we once said and committed ourselves to when we were confirmed or when we were baptized as an adult.
And I’m sure that wherever you were baptized (if as an adult) or confirmed, you would have answered questions similar to the ones our confirmants will answer today. (These are not Methodist principles, they are biblical principles of church membership and of discipleship)
The first question: Do you repent of your sins and renounce all evil?
Repentance means....to turn away from..... identifying sin and turning our back on it.
Repentance includes an element of hatred – hating sin
Renouncing all evil: Renouncing means ‘I will have nothing to do with evil”..... “That is not for me”
The opposite of renouncing is perhaps accepting/tolerating.
Evil is not to be accepted or tolerated.
There is no room in the Christian heart for an attitude that says “ah, that doesn’t really affect me, so I’m not going to get involved”
Too much evil in the world continues simply because people choose not to get involved. Our presiding Bishop in his opening address to conference this last Wednesday,said the following: the time will have to come when we name the evil and together seek healing. We cannot afford to just put band-aids on the wounds and not open them for genuine healing to take place. The perpetrators of evil thrive behind carefulness and sensitivity – especially when we find ourselves trapped in a mode of proclaiming ‘peace, peace ’when there is no peace Wounds do not heal by being concealed.
We are called to name evil in our nation, in our Church, in our midst… without naming it, we will never confront it and by never confronting it we never overcome it.
Evil is to be identified, confronted and renounced whenever we see it – not just at our confirmation.
Parents and grandparents, there is a special onus on us to identify, confront and renounce evil in our homes.
Evil enters our homes in books, magazines, through TV, computers, etc. Evil enters our homes in bottles and cans, lottery tickets (which whisper for a little input you can get a big output, that encourage something for nothing)…evil enters our homes via our tongues, prejudices and our behavior.
Jesus says to us as parents and grandparents, you lead these little ones astray, cause them to stumble or fall … and I, says Jesus, am going to tie a millstone around your neck and drop you in the sea.
Do you repent of your sins and renounce all evil?
The answer is I do and you’re not saying you will never sin again but you are saying that you realize the path to holiness lies in honest repentance and renouncing, rather than tolerating, evil.
So I ask you, confirmants, to stand and answer that question.
The second question is: Do you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
This question implies a few things: Firstly, that the sin we have talked about in the first question is something that you need saving from.
That it’s consequences are dreadful (dead-ful aren’t they)
Secondly: that you cannot save yourself from sin. Nothing you do can put you right with God.
Thirdly: You’re saying that you see in the life of Jesus and the events of Calvary the means of your salvation.
So it’s a statement of faith.
And so I ask you to stand once again and to answer the question: Do you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
The third question is: Will you obey Christ and serve Him in the church and in the world. You answered that at some stage, let's remind ourselves what it means.
The question has three parts:
First – obeying Christ: What does it mean?
The best answer I can give you is the answer Christ gave when asked about the greatest commandment in the law.
Matthew 22:37 – Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbour.
How do I obey Christ – by loving God and by loving everyone else like He did. We getting to the hard bit now aren’t we....we're getting to discipleship.
Second – I will serve Him in the church.
Whenever folk ask me what it means to be a member of the Christian Church, I hold up my hand and say 5 things:
1. Church membership means a personal, ongoing and growing relationship with Jesus.
2. A Church member should pray.
3. A Church member should read Scripture.
4. A Church member should be involved in the life of the Church – worshipping regularly is probably the most important and then in this church choosing from among many different areas of service.
5. Membership of the Church of Jesus Christ means supporting His Church financially.
Third part of that last question involves serving Christ in the world.
Christian, your salvation is lived out in the world, not in the church.
Christian, your salvation is worked out in the world, not in the church.
Let me tell you right up front, sometimes this brings great joy, sometimes it brings great suffering.
Jesus said following me means carrying my cross.
Always, serving Him brings great peace. Peace in the midst of joy, peace in the midst of suffering or tribulation. Let me remind you of a story you might of heard of before:
“In 1999 we were all shocked by the slaughter of twelve students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. A widely reported and confirmed story tells of one student's final moments at Columbine.
A frightened girl lying on the cafeteria floor was asked by one of the gunmen if she believed in God. Knowing full well the safe answer, she followed her convictions and answered honestly. “There is a God,” she said quietly, “and you need to follow God’s path.” The gunman looked down at her. “There is no God,” he said, and he shot her in the head.
Just the day before, Cassie Bernall, one of the victims, had written a poem in and entered it in her diary.”
‘Now I have given up on everything else, I have found it to be the only way to really know Christ and to experience the might power that brought Him back to life again, and to find out what it means to suffer and to die with Him. So, whatever it takes I will be one who lives in the fresh newness of life of those who are alive from the dead.”
Following Jesus sometimes brings great joy, and sometimes brings great suffering, but always brings peace.
Christians, Confirmants, Baptized, you are called to live in a world which can be a horrible place. We're called to serve in the church, which as you well know, can be a most horrible place. The God who sent His Son into the world, calls us to follow in His footsteps.
Jesus said to His disciples, follow me, but also said to them, go into the world.
You have heard Jesus say follow me, hear Him say; Go into the world.
And so I ask you ‘Will you obey Christ and serve Him in the Church and in the world?’ and your answer can be:
‘With His help I will.’
Intentionally, try to make a difference in the world.
Now, come forward and kneel……..