Confirmation: Is it for me?

More than a few folks have asked me, “Do I need to be confirmed?”

The short answer is no.  You don’t need to be confirmed. Jesus never said a word about confirmation. Confirmation doesn’t accomplish, secure, guarantee, or otherwise bolster your salvation. As far as I know, no one’s ever depicted St. Peter standing at the pearly gates with the churches’ confirmation rosters to determine who’s in and who’s out.

But here’s why you might want to be confirmed. Confirmation is a chance for you, as a mature, cognizant, decision-making person, to make a public profession of your faith in Jesus Christ and your decision to live out that faith in the context of this church community. For those of us who were baptized as infants or young children, our parents made promises on our behalf at our baptism—promises to renounce evil, to accept Christ as their savior, and to follow and obey him. Confirmation is our opportunity to take on those promises, and the responsibilities they entail, for ourselves. For those who were baptized as adults (or older children), confirmation is a time to reaffirm your faith and the commitment to the promises you made at your baptism.

And for all of us, through confirmation we are strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit to use our gifts for the building of God’s Kingdom. As part of confirmation, the bishop lays hands on you and prays for you. (You can read the prayers that he’ll use on page 418 in the Book of Common Prayer.) There’s nothing magic about this act. But it is one of the mysterious ways that God chooses to fill us with his grace. While confirmation isn’t mentioned explicitly in Scripture, it does have its roots there. For example, in Acts 8:14-17, the apostles Peter and John go to a group of newly baptized converts and lay hands on them, and they receive the Holy Spirit for the first time.

So, if you have never been confirmed in any denomination, but you are a baptized Christian and you feel like you might want to take this next step in your faith journey, pray about it. Ask God if he is calling you to this step of declaring your faith and to being strengthened to live out that faith as a part of Restoration Anglican Church.

What if you have been confirmed in another denomination? The answer is a little complicated. If you were confirmed in a denomination that has confirmation by bishops (in addition to Anglican, this usually means Lutheran and Catholic), then your confirmation transfers to the Anglican church; you don’t need to be confirmed again, and you will be “received” by the bishop into the Anglican church. If you were confirmed in another denomination, you do need to be confirmed by our bishop. (This was the case with me: I’d been confirmed in the Methodist church as a teenager, but then was confirmed by Bishop Bena as part of my commitment to the Anglican church.)

And if you’ve been confirmed in The Episcopal Church, or CANA, or another Anglican body, you don’t need to be confirmed or received… but the bishop will be happy to pray a prayer of “reaffirmation” for you when he is here!

Thoroughly confused? Feel free to ask questions and comment below; I’ll do my best to answer. And take a look at the service of confirmation in the BCP (pp. 412-419)—you’ll learn a lot about what confirmation is and why we do it!

Confirmation 101

So there’s been a lot of talk at Restoration recently about confirmation. That’s because our bishop, David Bena, will be visiting Restoration on Palm Sunday (April 5), and he’ll be confirming people at that time. This brings up a lot of questions: What is confirmation? Is it for me? Why do I need it? Why would I want it? What am I being confirmed into? If I was confirmed somewhere else, isn’t that good enough? Why does the bishop need to do it? (What’s a bishop?)

Lots of good questions, all worth asking. I’m going to explore some of them here on the blog in the next few days. I hope this will open up thoughts and questions and conversations and prayers about what it means to be on this journey of faith together at Restoration.

So, what is confirmation? One way to answer that question is to say that confirmation is a sacrament in the Anglican church. A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” In other words, something that we can do, say, see, feel, or touch that signals the invisible work that God does by imparting his grace to our hearts. In Anglicanism, we have two main sacraments (the “Sacraments of the Gospel”), which are baptism and the Eucharist; they’re the two that Christ expressly mandated his disciples to follow. There are also five other sacraments, including confirmation. These aren’t necessary for everyone to experience, but they are ways that God communicates his grace to us. (Check out p. 857-861 in the BCP for more on this.)

That’s kind of a general answer. A more specific answer is that confirmation is the rite through which we make a public declaration of our faith in Jesus Christ and are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live out that faith in our lives and in the context of our church community. When the bishop confirms you, he asks you to reaffirm the covenant of your baptism; then he lays hands on you and prays that the Holy Spirit would strengthen, empower, and sustain you. In many ways it’s pretty simple. It’s also very powerful.

At its heart, then, confirmation is a gift and a grace—yet one more way that God provides for us to deepen and strengthen and grow our relationship with our Lord, our savior, our redeemer and friend.

Up next: I’d like to be confirmed, I think I’ve already been confirmed, I’m not sure I want to be confirmed… Figuring out whether confirmation is for you.

In the meantime, please comment and question below!

Authority.

So one of the things you’ll learn is that I am pretty un-Anglican in my Anglican-ness.  The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian community in the world (the others of the ‘Big 3’ being Roman Catholicism and all the flavors of the Orthodox church).  There is a lot of drama in the AC right now, and admittedly I don’t follow it too closely.  People regularly ask me, ‘did you read this blog?  did you hear about what that bishop said?’  The answer is almost always, no.  My main concern is pastoring our little church in Arlington (and playing soccer with my kids, a date night with Laurel…).  It takes a lot of time.

But we are an Anglican church.  There are going to be people who think that’s great AND there will be people who wish the ‘A’ stood for something else.  I’m cool with that.  We will always be a mixed group.  🙂

One of the features of Anglicanism is that we are a connected system of churches who are under the authority of a bishop.  I actually think the Anglican system of polity (good word meaning:  governance, leadership authority, hierarchy, who makes the rules, who makes the decisions, etc) is very good because it provides a healthy restraint of checks and balances.  In our local church, Restoration will have a vestry—  a team of elders made up of men and women who have the authority to hire and fire the Rector (that’s me), must approve our budget and spending decisions, and provide (with the Rector) spiritual covering for the church.  They are put there by appointment and by election from the membership of the church.  The vestry receives its authority from our Bishop, Dave Bena.  He is the one who installs the vestry and who installs the Rector.  After my personal submission to Jesus, I am accountable to two different authorities:  my bishop, and the vestry.  That diffusion of power is good for the church and catalyzes healthy conversation and decision-making.

Bishops can make people nervous because it seems like a lot of power in the hands of one man.  But the office is consistently talked about in the New Testament.  Bishops (episcopos) and Elders (presbyters) are both provided by God to bring order to the functioning of the church.  The power is shared at the local level with the vestry and the Rector.  Those three working together creates a powerful synergy.

Tomorrow:  how does confirmation play into all of this?

Week 2: Rack it.

Couldn’t resist.  I’ll try to keep the ‘rack’ references to a minimum.  Sometimes it just works.

So, I forgot to hit record on our flash recorder again.  Week #2.  Lovely.  So, this is our second week without a sermon podcast.  I promise…  I’m preaching ’em.  I just can’t remember to record ’em.  Now many of you might say, how hard is it to ask someone to hit record for you?  I’ll simply refer you to Mark 8:33b.

We’ll take another shot next week.

Quickly becoming one of my favorite moments each Sunday is our 8:30 prayer gathering.  About 20 of us huddle in the kitchen at various levels of nervousness, excitement, and sleepiness.  We make sure everybody knows who is doing what.  Our prayers give thanks for all God is doing, the way He has gone before us, the opportunities He gives us to be a team and to work together.  We pray for the kids, our worship team, the readers, ushers, and preacher.  This time, as soon as we were done, everybody grabbed 10 unfolded worship guides and folded them.  Total time to fold 125 12-page worship guides–  43 seconds. This we will keep.

My message focused on the familiar scene of Isaiah 61–  the description of a people who are broken-hearted, held captive by bad choices, and mourning the consequences of badness.  From teh beginning of time, when face with this scene, humanity has asked:  what do we do to make things right?  When we get into a predicament and get stuck–  our first question is how do we save ourselves?  All of the options boil down to 2 categories–  I’ll blog more about those tomorrow.

The Christian story has at its core the belief that we cannot save ourselves.  The story of Jesus is at its humbling center, a story about humanity being rescued.  There are four options for how we might engage with this story:

1.    Closed rejection–  no way that story can be true.  In fact it is the existence of these stories that make the world such a bad place.  See for example, Christopher Hitchens and his book God is not great
2.    We have questions about the story:  What does it mean?  How does it interact with other stories?  What does this story demand of my life?  How do I wrestle with the implications of this story?
3.    We accept the story, but we isolate it.  We shield our life from it.  God and his restoration project are a drawer in our dresser.  This story is something we do on the weekends, usually sunday mornings.  We are not sure we want to let the story be much more than nice religion.
4.    We are open to the idea that this rescue, restoration story might be the news for which you have been waiting.  You are wondering, how can I be a part of God’s great restoration project?

My fervent hope is that we would be a church made up of people coming at this story from ALL of these postures.  What better place to engage these questions than in a community together.

Yesterday, we took one more step together.  May the questions of the curious and the convinced fill our conversations and enliven our friendships.

Images of the first day

Our congregation

Childrens Church at Restoration

First Day of Church…

I woke up early on Sunday.  I was nervous, scared, wondering if I had forgotten anything, excited, timid about my sermon, thankful for everyone’s efforts…  As I went to prayer, I asked God to give us great joy–  please infuse our congregation with joy and energy that morning.  Make us grateful for a place to worship, grateful for this new church.

Left the house around 7:30am.  Laurel took a picture of me holding my briefcase.  I flashed back 30 years to my first day at Matthew Whaley elementary in Williamsburg.  My first stop was the Starbucks at Lee Heights.  I wanted to provide coffee and pastries for our great liturgical team.  I invited all of my baristas to church.  We should probably get an account with them…

When I walked into Trinity Baptist, I teared up for the first time.  It was beautiful.  There was new carpet all over the place, the walls were freshly painted.  It smelled great.  The four Sunday School rooms were ready for kids.  The Sanctuary had brand new BCPs and Bibles in all the pews.  I plugged my iphone into the sound system and listened to Bob Kaufflin’s, ‘the lord is’.  Ran through my sermon one more time.  7:56  John Yates called to encourage me and tell us TFC was praying for us today.  Meant a lot.

A little after 8, Jon Crocker showed up with a wealth of sound equipment.  We worked together to set up the wireless mics.  And I took a crash course in how to record my sermon to a flash card.  (I forgot to turn it on–  human error and distracted preachers… the death of many a good plan).  Around 8:20, the liturgical servants started arriving and putting name tags and welcome cards everywhere.  8:23  Patrick Ware arrives with more coffee and pastries.  What a tangible source of support to us.

8:30–  we gathered for prayer in the kitchen, about 20 of us.  We prayed for joy, clarity, for our destiny as a church, for the kids, for people to feel welcome, for energy, for the worship team.  After about 15 minutes, we split up and a flurry of activity got everything ready.

9:10–  WELCOME TO RESTORATION!! Mary Breed is one of the most enthusiastic greeters I have ever met.  She will be the voice, smile, and face that many people remember as their first impression of Restoration–  and I’m thankful for that.

9:28–  the sanctuary is PACKED.  We turn up the sound system so that the loud singing doesn’t drown out the worship team.  My last moment of panic, tried to hide it, ’cause here we go…

9:29  I stand up to welcome folks and I see 2 of my dearest friends and former students from Texas in the congregation.  They had driven up from Charlottesville.  I wasn’t expecting to see them.  It totally chokes me up.  I lose track of what I wanted to say in my welcome.  It essentially becomes, ‘welcome to Restoration, here are some cards we want you to fill out, we have new books in the pews, read the bold print’  not the most inspiring.  But God is good.

The service was wonderful.  Our worship team had worked so hard to be ready and you could tell.  The sound system worked without a glitch–  so thankful for that.  We had 88 adults and 33 kids!  I asked all the kids how it was in children’s church and they RAVED about how much fun they had.  We have an incredible team overseeing this.  Readers, the prayers of the people, ushers, communion servers.  It was everyone’s first time and it went so smoothly.  As Laurel said repeatedly, ‘it did not feel ordinary, but it felt comfortable.’

I cried during my sermon–  During the conclusion.  Surprised I didn’t earlier.  I am so moved by the idea of doing this for 30 years with these people.  I am so excited about this being a journey that we are on for a long time.  I am not a guest preacher.  I am their pastor.  In my conclusion I talked about being a community that is actively waiting together.  There is something about belonging, being in partnership, being a team that gets to me.  Consequently, I was pretty choked up for the end.

We are building into our service an after-sermon song.  I like it.  Gives some space to reflect, to respond, to worship.  Gives me some transition moments.

The kids come back in to the sanctuary for the Eucharist.  So fun to see them streaming down the aisles!  I like their chatter and comments during the liturgy.

After the service, we had coffee and pastries at the Breeds.  They live a short walk from the church.  Almost everyone went from the church to their house.  When I got there, the conversation was at a low roar.  God totally answered our prayers for joy and energy.

So the questions will come–  when do we go to 2 services?  How will we have enough space to grow?  God has taken such good care of us and provided all that we need.  These answers will come as well.  In the meantime lets be thankful for a great first day.

Laurel asked me late last night–  was it more than you could have asked or imagined?  I said, well you’d be surprised what I can imagine…  But the answer is Yes.  From music, to greeters, to parking lot helpers, to children’s ministry, to sermon, to communion, to hospitality, to facility, to new-comers, wow.  God is good and able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine…

Jan 25: Restoration Launch Team begins worship

From Jan 25, 2009 until Easter, Restoration will be worshipping as a launch team at our facility on Quincy St.  These three months are a critical time for us to grow in friendship as a community, to practice our liturgical mechanics (how we structure the service, move people around the sanctuary, welcome new-comers), and to establish our nascent childrens and small group ministry.  We have a committed core of 55 adults and 35 kids.  Over the next 3 months, our hope is to pray and practice and pray and listen and pray and worship and pray and be ready to love our neighbors and love Arlington with the great news about Jesus.

Jan 18: Restoration sent out from TFC

On January 18, at the 9 and 11 services at The Falls Church, Restoration Anglican Church will be commissioned, blessed, and prayed out.  We are so thankful to be a part of the TFC mission to follow Christ the King.  Planting a daughter congregation in Arlington is a strategic next step as we seek to plant Gospel Churches all around the beltway corridor.  Join us at TFC on the 18th or in thanksgiving from a distance as we worship in gratitude for what the Lord has done.

hospitality and the pool

One of the activities I love to hate is swimming.  Arlington has great pools that are so convenient.  It is one of the things I love about this county.  The pool I swim in has a cadre of fiercely loyal denizens.  These men are there (early) every morning.  They bang out 80-100 laps (way more than me) then afterwards chat it up in the locker room.  Yesterday, the place was PACKED.  6 lanes of 5 swimmers.  People were grumpy.  The post-swim ‘regulars’ chatter centered around ‘how do we get these extra people to go away’?  There was no celebration that more people were swimming.  There was no delight in welcoming extra folks to the pool.  Instead–  ‘it’s supposed to get really cold this week, maybe that will keep people away.’  Or ‘I hear they might turn the heat down in the locker rooms, maybe that will discourage new-comers.’

Can’t blame ’em.  If I have a set way of doing things…  If I love my lane all to myself…  Then people get in the way.  Restoration worships in a small building.  We are new.  Many folks will check us out.  How do we communicate sheer delight that lots of people have come to hear about Jesus, to be in community, to take our pew and parking space?

Why Restoration?

The Biblical promise that gives me the most hope is that Jesus is coming back as King to restore all things and to reconcile all things to God.  He is bringing a new heavens and a new earth.  In those last days, there will be a judgment and a separation.  Truth will be vindicated.  We will receive beauty for ashes.  The broken will be bound up.  The devastations of many generations shall be repaired.  Tears will go away.  All of the scents and tastes we get of this coming Kingdom (seen in beauty, truth, kindness, grace) will be fully consummated in the fully-disclosed reign of our Sovereign King.  It is a day that demands our lives.  It is a day that is worth our lives.

It is a day to come that instructs our conduct in the present.  In technical words, our eschatology determines our ethics.  What we believe about Jesus’ coming reign determines how we live in this present time.  It affects our materialism, our generosity, our priorities, our relationships, everything.  We are people who live between 2 days (the day of atonement, when Jesus forgave us, set us free, and provided his spirit and the day of consummated restoration, when He comes back).  We are people who live in the constant tension of the already and the not yet.  This tension makes it hard for those on the outside to understand why we live the way we do.  This tension pleads with us to use every ounce of our creativity and drive to implore ‘outside people’ to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20).  This tension is why we are planting a new church.

In restoration, we capture our core value–  the Gospel changes everything.  Grace wins, Truth wins.  Love wins.  The sweeping biblical narrative can be summarized by: creation, fall, exile, restoration.  This is the big picture story from Genesis to Revelation.  It is seen in smaller vignettes throughout the Scriptures.  We are a church compelled by God’s project of restoration.

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