"Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders." (1 Timothy 4:14)
Sunday was such a joy! Thank you for "not neglecting the gift that is in you" as we practiced a simple act of prophecy — listening and sharing insights from the Holy Spirit about the spiritual gifts in our community. I have loved hearing about the ways you encouraged one another.
I mentioned in the sermon that 1 Timothy 4:14 may have been describing a very early, informal sort of ordination. We see this pattern throughout the New Testament and in early church writings: church leaders laying hands on someone to commission and strengthen them for ministry. If you've ever been to an ordination, then you've seen how we continue this practice today when ordaining priests and deacons.
We also continue this practice through confirmation. In fact, confirmation is sometimes referred to as "the ordination of the layperson" — and I love that description! In confirmation, the bishop lays hands on a person and prays for the strengthening of the Holy Spirit for a life of service to God. In this way, confirmation is a rite of Christian maturity and mission, a public acknowledgement of the continuation of the Spirit's work in baptism.
During the baptism liturgy, we tell parents and godparents that when their baptized children have learned the Christian faith, they should "come to the bishop to be confirmed, to publicly claim the faith for their own and be further strengthened by the Holy Spirit to serve Christ and his kingdom" (Book of Common Prayer, p. 163). In baptism, the Holy Spirit births a person into the body of Christ; at confirmation, the Holy Spirit strengthens him or her for the continual growing and deepening in the Christian life that marks a mature faith.
This deepening and strengthening by the Spirit is not only for the good of the confirmed person; it also equips them to be sent out for the good of others. Confirmation marks someone with a deeper sense of Christian vocation as a witness and minister of Jesus in all the ordinary places of their lives: their households, neighborhoods, and workplaces.
In other words, confirmation is a powerful moment of grace in which a person makes a public profession of faith, and the bishop and church surround them and say in return: "We have watched you mature in the faith. We see your unique gifts and calling, the way you serve those around you as a minister of Jesus. We affirm all that God is doing in your life and now we ask for an increase of the Spirit to empower you for more. We can't wait to see how the world will experience more of the fullness of God's kingdom through you."
Confirmation is open to anyone who is baptized and affirms the Nicene Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. Those who are already confirmed may also wish to reaffirm their faith (same ceremony, ever-so-slightly different prayer) — this is especially meaningful for those who are returning to the faith, experiencing inward spiritual renewal, or going through a significant life transition.
Are you interested in exploring confirmation or reaffirmation? The bishop will visit on December 4 to confirm and reaffirm people. Please email me this week if you are curious to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will schedule a conversation sometime this month (most likely an evening on Zoom) to explore confirmation further and pray for one another.
We are one in the Spirit,