Answer the Call: A Confirmation Commencement
May 21, 2017 Pastor: Matt Wilcox
Topic: Confirmation Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:12–4:16
This morning is a special day for our church and a special moment in the lives of some of our students. Confirmation Sunday. We are beginning to enter the season of graduations and commencements. And so, in that light, I’m going to offer a slightly different kind of message this morning. It’ll come in two parts. One for our confirmands here and one for the rest of us as members of this church family. That’s important because confirmation is as much about us as a church as it is about each of these remarkable students. And each piece will contain a challenge and a charge from our texts this morning. Again, there’s significance in this. Unlike an academic graduation or a change in career, confirmation is solely focused on the formation and flourishing of faith. It is a call and a gift given by God, fostered by God, sustained by God, and completed by God. So let’s begin.
First, to our confirmation students. My charge to you is this: Answer God’s call. The past year has likely looked and felt differently for each of you. It likely began differently as well. Some of you might have been excited about confirmation and what it would entail. Some of you, likely, were perhaps skeptical or even worried about what this process would be like. And I’m guessing some of you were not even sure what to really think about it at all. Regardless, you all have come to this place.
You’ve formed relationships with adults in the church who believe in you and what God seeks to do through you. You’ve listened and joined in on classes and discussions focused on some of the most complicated elements of our faith. You’ve had the chance to form and strengthen friendships with other students in the youth group. And now you’re here.
At a space where you take personal ownership of your faith. It’s no longer your parent’s responsibility to make sure you are growing in your faith. It’s yours. This shows up in the simplest of things. Like not forcing your mom or dad to drag you out of bed on Sunday to get to church. And it shows up in the most delicate and reaching of things. Like the wrestling we all as Christians do when our faith and love of God comes face-to-face with loss, tragedy, and darkness. Those burdens and those blessings are yours to bear now.
The call God gives you comes right out of our text in Timothy this morning. It’s a text for each of you. Listen to it and hear it as God’s call for you.
*Read 1 Timothy 4:12-16.
You are called to set an example for everyone you encounter. For those younger than you and those older. You are called to be an example, a witness, and a beacon for anyone who is following God. And Paul lays out a few specific areas in this passage of where that needs to be shown. In speech. The words we use have power and meaning. They can be used to encourage and comfort or to wound and distract. The way we speak, the words we use, speak volumes of who we are. Jesus said that what comes out of our mouth declares what is in our hearts. So speak words of life and truth and grace. Speak with intelligence and sincerity and humility.
The next word Paul uses is conduct. Other translations use the word life. Your lives and the way you act should show the world that you are a follower of Christ. The way you spend your time, the friendships you invest in, the way you treat others. How you live should be as convicting as any sermon. And not simply how you act or live here at church but at school, in your home, with your friends, when you’re alone. God’s call cannot be put on and taken off like a jacket. Once it is given and received, it is permanent and can be used in so many powerful ways.
Love is the next word we are given. Love, the defining trait of our Savior and what should be the most obvious quality of any Christian. What we love is reflected in where we place our time and where we place our time is often where our legacy will be cemented. The way we love permeates and touches every aspect of our lives. How we treat a stranger, how we respond to adversity, who we allow closest to our hearts, how we see ourselves. Let your love shine like a light in a world that so desperately needs it.
Faith is next. Perhaps the most difficult of them all. Faith compels us to believe when we cannot see, and to hold on when we have no strength. It urges us to walk forward even if we don’t know where it will lead. It forces us to consider wisdom and not simply knowledge. It fixes our eyes on God above, instead of being distracted by all the things here below. Faith is about being steadfast and holding tight to the hand of our Savior even when everyone and everything tells us it’s time to let go.
And finally, purity. My prayer is that you’re focus on the Lord would be pure and not riddled with or stained by distractions or false idols. My prayer is that the relationships you will someday have would be marked by a purity that both confuses and inspires the world around you. My prayer is that your hearts would reflect the clean washing the Lord has already done through the death of Christ. My prayer is that just as we see value and beauty in the purest of metals and precious gems that the purity of your love would be a valuable and rare blessing to this church and this world.
That is the call you are charged to answer. Just as young Samuel heard God calling to him in the night, so too does God call to each of you now. He is speaking your name and He wants you to be a part of the incredible plans He has for this place. Like Samuel, you have older believers with you who can help you decipher and discern the voice of God. But only you can answer Him. So answer Him. Answer the Call.
And now, for the rest of you. Your charge is, in some ways, much simpler than that of our confirmands here. And, in some ways, it is infinitely more difficult. Here it is: Let them answer the call. We need to help these students realize and embrace and embody the faith they are professing today, but - we also need to give them the space and the opportunity to do so. God did not call out to Eli that night. He called out Samuel. This morning, God is calling to these confirmands. Yes, the Lord has a message and a call for each of us. And often times, a part of that call is to allow for the call of another to grow and be nourished.
It is our responsibility that we provide the same kind of example for these confirmands as the Lord asks them to provide out our Timothy text. Our lives too should be marked by a speech, life, love, faith, and purity that reflects our identity as children of God. In the soil of this faithful church and behind the motivation, discipline, and steadfastness of each of you, these students can continue to grow into the agents of God’s mercy and grace and justice and love that this world needs. We need to help them do that. We need to let them do that. Sometimes that will mean sacrificing our time. And sometimes it will mean stepping aside. All in the same faith we are praying so adamantly for in these confirmands.
Confirmation class, I’m proud of you. This church is proud of you. But my heart is more excited about the days ahead of you than it is for today. My expectations are higher for you, my hopes for you are more reaching, and my faith in God’s ability to complete a good work in you is absolute. So go, answer the call.