When Will They Ever Learn

Japanese businessmen wishing to break into the then lucrative Christmas card industry began selling their own. The image they chose for their first offering? Jesus kneeling in prayer and in agony in Gethsemane. In the immortal words of St. Maxwell, Smart that is, “They missed it by that much.”

I thought this was bad until the mother of a confirmand showed me this.

“Believe in yourself” is the motto of Disney, Hollywood, and athletics. It’s not the motto and certainly not the emphasis in Confirmation. Not in my classes anyways, but perhaps it is in others given the fact that they were ‘Low in stock.’

Every Confessional Lutheran knows that Luther was not big on Confirmation as it was practiced in Roman Catholicism. It’s a sacrament for them; there’s anointing, and the declaration that the confirmand receives the Holy Spirit. For Confessional Lutheran’s it doesn’t agree with our definition of a sacrament and neither does it give the Holy Spirit.

The practice of instructing before communing of course dates to the earliest centuries of the Church. Our Lent was initially the weeks-long period of instruction leading up to adult Confirmation. The popular Lutheran practice of confirming on Palm Sunday makes many think we’re following the early church. No, we’re following the school calendar of Reformation era Germany. Kids were released from school after Palm Sunday to work in the fields.

The only worse time to confirm people would be on Pentecost Sunday. When I entered the ministry, I did that. I did it to give me more time to teach. That led to the wrong connection between being confirmed and receiving the Holy Spirit.

The only worse thing you could do is to put confirmands in white gowns and treat them as graduates. Oops. Well, at least I never used Jesus in Gethsemane for a Christmas image. Yet.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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