Stages of Faith: Confirmed by Grace Luke 2: 41-52

Make no mistake, this was Joseph’s fault and if you don’t believe me, ask Mary.  A mother would never let this happen unless depending upon her husband.  Mary and Joseph and the family have been to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.  They are in the usual big caravan (today it would be a Dodge Caravan) to Nazareth, traveling on donkeys, maybe a (Joe) Camel or two, if anyone had money, but most of them walked.

It can be real confusing; getting up before dawn to travel.  My family always got on the road by 4:00 a.m., so we might make good time before rush hour and kids could sleep in the back of the car.  It was probably dark outside and Mary’s is watching the little ones.  She asks Joseph to look out for Jesus and the big kids.  Joseph was not to worried about   Jesus, he was always the responsible one; no trouble at all.  Mary may have been talking with the women about the kids.  Joseph is with the men; talking about the upcoming game.  (Giants/Pats)  Kids are playing games and racing to the top of the next hill.

At sunset, they make camp.  Jesus’ parents are about to experience every parent’s nightmare.  As the porridge is served, Mary calls Jesus; there’s no answer.  She calls for Joseph.  He gives her a deer-in-the-headlights look.  They race; asking the kids if they’ve seen Jesus.  Every time we read this story it jumps right off the page making our hearts beat faster. (beach story) We can feel their alarm, if any of us have ever felt that wave of anxiety that rushes over us when we realize our children may be missing.

I think Mary and Joseph headed straight to Jerusalem, though travel was not safe at night.  I can hears them imagining what may have befallen him.  They may have felt they blew it for God who had given them this special child, which angels circled around.  They must have hoped the angels would come back and help.  The road is uphill, really.  They search everywhere and there is no sign of him.  They go back to the temple to look there and perhaps pray.  They find him there.  After giving up hope, they find him in the place they never figured to lose him-the temple.  The church seems like the right place to lose our children. 

Parents fight the thought of losing our children from the start.  From the time our child leaves the womb, we spend energy and emotion trying not to lose them.  We wean them as infants, but the whole experience of a child growing up requires constant weaning.  Weaning happens when we put our child in the nursery and sit in church pretending to listen to the sermon while we plan our quick exit on the last Amen.  Weaning happens on the first day of kindergarten as we wait at home or maybe in the car, half-hoping they liked it and half-hoping they cried missing mom and dad.  Weaning is waiting to hear the garage door go up, the trek to the dorm room, and the walk down the wedding aisle.

This morning we come to a spiritual weaning moment, the day a child is confirmed as member of Christ’s church.  Like Jesus, at twelve years of age we wean our children from our sole care in the life of faith.  At confirmation, they make pledges to make the faith their own.  It’s a big deal!

We are walking through the stages of faith.  We are trying to understand the graces that guide us; looking how the stages of faith in our lives parallel Jesus’ growing up years.  We’ve seen how prevenient, redeeming, and baptismal,  graces are active in our lives, just as they were also active in the early life of Jesus.  We acknowledge there are places where it is hard to imagine comparing our faith journey to Jesus.  Yet, it is clear that though he was the Son of God, he too needed to discover of grace just like us.  Jesus had to learn who he was, who his true Parent was, as we do too.  Today, we look at the stage of faith where confirming grace resides.

Mary and Joseph ask Jesus, “How could you do this to us?”  For all their expected upset at Jesus for staying behind, they had to know this day was coming.  They had spent twelve years guiding Jesus’ spiritual preparation, which led to this day of losing him at the temple.  On this day, they witness him symbolically being passed back to God from their spiritual watch care.  They would still be his parents and Jesus would still be their child, but from this point, things would be different between parent and child.  Jesus would answer to a higher obligation; his heavenly Parent. 

We should not be surprised Jesus was engaged in vigorous conversation with the teachers of the law when his parents found him.  Joseph and Mary had plenty to do with him being able to do so at age twelve.  Yet, Jesus had to take what he learned and make the faith his own; for God has no grandchildren, only children.  This scene in scripture is Jesus receiving confirming grace as he moves toward the next stage of his faith life.

Citizens participate meaningful if they understand their roots, basic doctrines, and current events of their native land.  Our founders knew democracy depended upon an educated electorate.  This concept was a key factor behind the birth of public education.  Children must be afforded the opportunity to learn about history, constitution, government, and its alternatives, otherwise we have an uneducated and apathetic electorate.

The church’s business is to make disciples.  So, when parents and children ask how old they have to be to join the church; they are expressing a genuine excitement about an important rite of passage, their desire to make the faith their own.  The church must enable this process if we expect them to make commitments to be a part of the body of Christ, partners in the gospel, and priests alongside us.  There`s no social promotion simply because a child says they love Jesus.  We are to provide occasions for our children to dig into their heritage to encounter the God who reached out to save a people from foreign taskmasters and delivered them through the wilderness.  We are to create opportunities for our children to wrestle with the person of Jesus and what he taught.  Our children are to grow in wisdom and stature till they willingly take faithful steps in service to others.  They must make their own decision to make the faith their own.

The process usually begins at age of twelve through confirmation.  Children are in classes; covering the basics of the faith: who is the triune God, what is the role of the Bible, how do I fit into the church, and various other subjects needed in the life of faith.  We are fashioning young theologians; upon completion participants confirm the promises made on their behalf at their baptism.  They no longer just go along with their parents’ faith; they take personal responsibility for their faith before God and the church.  At the end,  we celebrate with them for making the faith their own.

The process of confirmation works as long as leaders take it seriously and parents and children do not treat it like an elective.  We insist our kids take their school work seriously, so they will be prepared for their world.  We should be as equally adament for their soul training as we are their career training.  No excuse saying; religion is a personal thing, I want my children to choose for themselves, or I don’t want them to grow up hating church.  The confirmation process should prepare our children to engage both worlds faithfully.  May we have equal resolve to also offer Sunday School classes that produce growth, camps that change lives, Vacation Bible Schools that shape souls, and other needed spirit stretching possibilities.

In the end we want to feel a sense of parental and congregational pride as our children grow up and make the faith their own; fulfilling the promises we made at their birth and baptism.  If we do our job well, we will lose our children in church, and in losing our children to the church, we lose them to God.  The best part; when we find them there, we will find them growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and all people.

Published in: on February 8, 2012 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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