On Sunday, May 31, four young people will confess their faith in the Lutheran rite of confirmation. They will become communicant members of our Bethany Lutheran Church (ELS) in Princeton, Minnesota. In so doing they will promise to “remain steadfast in this faith, and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away” from it. This is a serious promise. The late Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was persecuted in a communist prison and after his release founded “The Voice of the Martyrs,” took his confirmation class to the zoo to look face to face at the lions and impress upon them the example of the martyrs who faced the lions’ roaring and refused to deny their faith. This is what the confirmands are promising, to take their stand in this “lion-hearted” way.
As they make these promises, however, they do not do so in their own strength. As they have learned in these years of instruction, their only strength to will and to do what God wants them to do is furnished by God Himself, in Jesus Christ, through the continual coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. They cannot by their own reason or strength keep believing in Jesus Christ. Their faith, each day, is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. They look to the cross of Jesus Christ as the complete and perfect atonement for their sins, to supply what is lacking in them. They come to the Lord’s Supper to receive the forgiveness of sins and to become stronger in their faith toward God and in fervent love for others.
This is not only true for these confirmands. By pondering what is happening in their confirmation, we all can learn the Holy Spirit’s important place in our own lives. Not one of us can keep our promises to God by our own strength. We cannot by our own reason or strength keep believing in Jesus Christ. We too look to the cross of Jesus Christ for atonement, and come to the Lord’s Supper to receive the forgiveness of our sins. All glory be to God alone!