These words are the beginning of a long question found near the end of our service of Affirmation of Baptism/Confirmation which serve as the center of the rite. The intention to live in this covenant God has made with us becomes the center of the promises made by individuals as they are confirmed or as they are brought into our fellowship as new members. We are reminded in this service of God’s grace given to us in the promises spoken over our lives as we were baptized, and this remembering leads to our own promises we made at our own confirmation services.
Promises are important. We only can live in community because, for the greater part, we live up to promises we make. Certainly, we all fall short at moments and don’t always live up to the promises we make, but even when we fail, we realize the importance of promises kept and how valuable working toward the fulfillment of these promises is. So, what promises did/do we make as we are confirmed? I wonder if it might be a good thing for us to examine these promises in order to consider how important these promises are.
“To live among God’s faithful people…” We promise as God’s baptized children that we will live as active participants in the life of the congregation. We only can be members of a community in which we participate. It is in the fellowship of believers where the Church always has recognized that important aspects of Christian life and faith are incubated and helped to grow, and that these relationships we make with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ enrich our lives and our faith and continue to help focus our lives on God and God’s continued relationship with us.
“To hear the Word of God and share in the Lord’s supper…” God comes to us in Word and sacrament. This is one of the core beliefs of Lutheran theology. In God’s Word, through Scripture and proclamation (Sermon) we hear again and again of God’s amazing love and grace for us, and we are touched once again by God’s promise of forgiveness. In the meal we share, we take in to us the living Christ, and we eat and drink God’s promises of forgiveness and life. Strengthened by this wonderful sacrament, we are empowered by grace to be God’s agents of love active in the world.
“To proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed…” Now that we have received the promises, the grace and the love of God, we become carriers of that good news which has transformed our lives. This is living the Christian call, the mission we have been given. God’s love first comes to us as we receive the promise. We then take this love and communicate this promise to others in the words and acts of love we share with them.
“To serve all people, following the example of our Lord Jesus…” By connecting our mission with the mission of Jesus we live authentically Christian lives as we serve the needs of others. Through the hearing of the promise, the proclamation of the ministry of Jesus and the life given to us in the sacraments we are freed to become servants for others, knowing our future is safe and secure in a God who never will leave us. God’s promises are true.
“And to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” We also find our mission as God’s children in working for peace and justice everywhere. Where we find people and systems that oppress or use violence to control others or impress injustice, we, as the people of God, organize and work for better ways to serve the needs of all and to promote peace and life in all its fullness.
That’s quite a list, yet these are the promises we have made. Our mission and ministry as a congregation depend on our members being strengthened in their faith in the promises God has made through Jesus. Every week we are touched by words of forgiveness and are reminded of God’s love for us, a love so strong Jesus died to share it with us. Reminded that we are God’s children we then are prepared and empowered to live out the rest of the promises we make and take our faith into the world. As we share God’s love we make Christ known and bring God’s promises to others. Yet, this work is intimately connected to the gathering, the coming together to be touched by God’s love in Word and sacrament. In Christian fellowship we understand that we are not alone, and by sharing the ministry with others, we become able to make a bigger impact upon the world and upon the lives of others. May we renew our promises to come and see, and to go and share.