[Jesus said] Therefore everyone who confesses Me before others, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)
We went around the table and got to one girl. She’s just a freshman in high school, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. She said, “Well, I grew up in the church and I’ve always heard about Jesus. But it wasn’t until after the Winter Youth Camp in March that I really accepted Jesus Christ into my heart.” I glanced around the room and saw several of the adults had tears in their eyes.
This is what it’s all about. Leading people to Jesus and helping them to understand how they might have a relationship with Him.
For six weeks this past spring, our youth went through a Confirmation Class. Many people don’t know what a confirmation class is. I certainly didn’t before I started attending a Presbyterian Church.
Most parents in the reformed tradition choose to have their children baptized (or at least dedicated). It’s not that we believe that baptism is necessary for salvation (the thief on the cross beside Jesus was never baptized, and yet Jesus assured him he would be in paradise). But when children are baptized, parents are making a covenant with God and with the church to raise their children in the faith and seek to cultivate that faith in them.
While the people of Israel had the covenant of circumcision (which was limited to males alone), Christians have the covenant of baptism (which is not limited). These sacraments take place before the child is old enough to make a cognitive decision. This act symbolizes what the prophet Jeremiah wrote when he quoted God, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jer. 1:5)
This understanding is a key pillar of the reformed faith: God reaches out to us before we are even capable of responding. Children are presented to God. Parents are asked if they promise to live the Christian faith and teach that faith to their children. The congregation is asked if they will nurture that faith, encouraging the children to know and follow Jesus Christ. Parents are asked if they trust in God’s mercy and renounce sin and evil; if they turn to Jesus and trust in His grace and love; finally, parents are asked if they will be Christ’s faithful disciples. At this point, the child is baptized.
In this sacred moment, parents are confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and committing to raise their child in that faith. But no person can force faith on another, not even a parent. And so, this faith is planted and nurtured in the heart of the child, but it is for the child to confirm that faith. As John Calvin states, “children are baptized for future repentance and faith. Though these are not yet formed in them, yet the seed of both lies hid in them by the secret operation of the Spirit.”
When children are going through puberty, they begin making choices for themselves that will affect the rest of their lives. Our Jewish friends have Bar and Bat Mitzvah around this time in a young person’s life. And we have Confirmation Classes.
The purpose of confirmation classes is to teach our young people what it is that we believe and then encourage them to commit themselves to this faith. At baptism, their parents made a covenant for them. They must take ownership of that faith. They must confirm that covenant. And they must confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Our Director of Youth Ministry spent six weeks going through the Apostles’ Creed, breaking it down and discussing the essential elements of our faith. One Sunday, I met with the youth group for an extended seminar to go through the basics of what it means to be a member of our congregation. After the confirmation class, six of our youth came to our session meeting to be examined for membership.
On Youth Sunday, May 31st, these young people will be welcomed into the membership of the church. I’m so excited to see these youth commit themselves to Jesus Christ. Following the service on Youth Sunday, there will be a year-end party to celebrate the graduating seniors. We have four seniors in high school who will be graduating in June. They are Jonathan Munguia, Nathan Kim, Anna Gallego, and Hawke Allen. Feel free to use the church directory to send them notes.
On Sunday, June 7th, our Director of Youth Ministry, Jonathon Welch, will be preaching. Jonathon is finishing up his masters at Fuller Theological Seminary. As part of his seminary education, Jonathon is required to do a field education internship and he has been doing that here at First Presbyterian for the past few months. Preaching is part of his internship. After he preaches, Jonathon plans to take the four graduating seniors out to a nice lunch. He will graduate from Fuller on June 13th… well, as long as his field education supervisor passes him. Ha ha hah!
Hearing the comments of the young woman at the session meeting reminds us all of the vows we make at baptism to help raise the children of the church to know and follow Jesus Christ. It also reminds us of the importance of our children’s and youth ministries. I am so grateful for the leadership of both Pastor Peter Kim and Jonathon Welch. I am grateful that Jonathon continues to plan events like the Winter Youth Camp where our young people can meet Christ in an authentic way and commit themselves to Him.
Keep our Vacation Bible School in your prayers. VBS this year will take place July 13th through July 17th, with VBS Sunday being on July 19th. If you’re able to volunteer, please contact Pastor Peter. There is no better legacy to leave than the generation after you that follows Jesus Christ. To that end, let us recommit ourselves.