Twenty-two young men and women will be making their confirmation this coming Sunday at St. James. It is a joyful time for families and teens alike. As a pastor and a father who experienced the confirmation of his oldest a few years back, it is a privilege to see how they have grown. Before our eyes, we see a new maturity as they stand up, read their chosen confirmation verse, publicly profess their Christian faith, and ask for God to help and guide them. It is a hope-filled moment.
On Sunday, twenty-two young believers will return to the waters of baptism as we celebrate the completion of one stage of their faith formation and the entrance into another. Over the course of three years, they have learned, studied the Bible and the catechism. They have also served others. They have engaged in the life of the St. James community. Now they are ready to wade further into the water.
Camp Beisler was a Lutheran church camp in the northwestern part of New Jersey. I worked there as a camp counselor after my second year of seminary. In those days, before the construction of a beautiful pool, we swam in the lake. This lake was made by damming up a small stream that ran through the property. It had a 'beach', which was also fabricated by dumping a large quantity of sand along the shoreline. To say that the lake was nothing special would be an understatement. It was common and lacked the pristine quality of a proper and natural Minnesota lake. Still, in the summer, on those hot days - it became a source of delight. The sounds of children and counselors lent energy and excitement. It was a place where everyone - whether they knew how to swim like a fish or sit like a rock - could be refreshed. Relationships and friendships were built in those waters - they were a source of life. It was at the heart of the camp's community.
Memories of the lake at Camp Beisler come back to me as I reflect upon Sunday's confirmation. At the start of worship, each confirmand will be carrying in a little glass container of water. They will pour their water into the font. The water will be straight from the tap - in of itself nothing particularly special. And yet the symbol is powerful. In the waters of baptism - which each of the confirmands will be affirming - community, life, and hope are created. God makes the ordinary extraordinary for it bears the promise and presence of Christ. Baptism continues to open toward the future.
And so my prayer for them, for this church, for me too - is that they/we will continue to find delight, meaning, and purpose in the waters of baptism. May they/we have the courage to affirm our faith again and again toward God's future in ways that support relationships and community.
p.s. Confirmation worship starts at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 21.