Last night we welcomed our newest members, the Confirmation Class of 2012. I shared a few remarks with them, which I will post, here:
First – I want to thank Laurie Farquharson for taking the lead in teaching the confirmation class. It is a part of the life of the church she has had the primary responsibility for, for 18 years. And there is nothing Laurie loves to do more than teach, unless it is to try out a new recipe. And the two are similar, I think. Because every year of confirmation has a plan is the same, to take a certain amount of time to provide a certain amount of information in order to help young people claim the faith as their own—every year has different ingredients, including different students, different sermons, different things going on in the world around us, and so forth.
Second – I want to thank the confirmation students. You have done the work of getting ready to profess your faith in Jesus Christ. What you are doing today, people have done since the first church ever, which was the First Presbyterian Church of Jerusalem, 2000 years ago. In the earliest days of the Christian Church, the season of Lent was the season in which those who were about to profess their faith in Jesus were given instruction into the faith as it is revealed in the Bible, and then on Easter they were received as professing members of the body of believers we call the Church. Their preparations were a bit more involved than yours are, but like you, they also studied scripture, learned theology, and satisfied the leaders of the church—that is the elders—that they were indeed ready to become Christians.
Third – I want to say something about your statements of faith. One of the most brilliant statements of faith ever written, is available to us today. It was written by John Calvin himself, and is called “The Institutes of the Christian Religion”. John Calvin wrote it when he was only 27 years old. It was admired by other believers and indeed became one of the guiding references for the Reformation. You can read it today. In fact, I am sure you can read it on line. It is so important and influential that many church denominations—including our own—look to it for information about what we are to believe and how we are to live.
Here is the thing…
John Calvin was born in 1509. The original edition of “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” appeared in 1536. It was a very thin book. Kind of like a pocket paperback. Over the course of his life, John Calvin returned to this work again and again. Not to read it and say to himself, “Look what a brilliant fellow I was to have written this when I was only 27.”
No, quite the opposite. John Calvin returned to it in order to revise it, to add to it, to amend it, to edit it, to clarify it—in other words, to say in more accurate ways, what he believed. It ended up being a very thick book. About the size of a good dictionary. I am telling you this because—trust me—none of you will ever have the grasp of our Christian faith that Calvin did. But you will have many opportunities to return to your own Statement of Faith, and if you wish, to revise, add to it, amend it, clarify it, and say in more accurate ways what you believe.
I encourage you to be open to the wonderful things God has yet to teach you about being a follower of Jesus—there is something new to be learned every day.
And if you don’t pay attention, you just might miss it.