Monday, May 10, 2004

The Spirit and Confirmation

We're preparing for Confirmation Sunday, May 16th, so I'm reading the Gospel text through a particular lense- the rite of Confirmation. We're using the rite provided by Renewing Worship, which modifies the language slightly that you find in any LBW for the Affirmation of Baptism. The major addition seems to be the (re-) introduction of the trifold rejects before the trifold affirmation of faith through the Apostle's Creed.

We have a funny doubling up of the Holy Spirit in our Lutheran baptismal rites. Chrismation occurs at the baptism in a modified form, including a prayer for the Holy Spirit. Then again at the affirmation of baptism service, we have a prayer for the Holy Spirit. The chrismation is simply an additional action during the baptismal rite, not a sacrament in its own right. The affirmation of baptism, though a major liturgical service/rite, is not considered a sacrament. Well, it's not considered a sacrament by our church. But ask the laity how important it is, and you'll get a different answer. Just notice that it is the only thing in our whole church life where we get 100% participation of a grade level.

There are obvious parallels between the Gospel text and the Confirmation service. Hearing the Word and keeping it. The Holy Spirit will come and teach you everything. All the language in this gospel of perichoresis, in-dwelling, the just-as-ing-ness of the gospel of John (kathos). The Father and the Son and the Spirit share in each other's life. Confirmation can be understood as conformation therefore as well, living ever more deeply into the perichoretic life.

But we also know from experience that confirmation tends to be graduation. Rather than seeing it as an affirmation, the Spirit drawing the believer ever more deeply into the life of the Trinity and the church, we see just the opposite. So I'm trying an experiment this year. It has to do with mentors and lay participation. It has to do with the introduction of what I might call "whole church" liturgy. But I can't tell you now, or it might leak out. More reports later on how it goes. But pray that the Spirit will work it's work with or in spite of liturgical experimentation.

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