Questions for a Lifetime of Faith
Questions for a Lifetime of Faith
I’m sure you have heard this old quip: This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been an actual life, you would have been given more complete instructions.
When it comes to Confirmation, that quip suggests two implications. One: This is not a test. This is so not a test. Confirmation is not first of all a test that involves getting the answers right, but about how to live with incredible questions that will never have final answers. Confirmation is about growing in faith, not stopping with answers. Two: Confirmation is about your actual life; it exploring some of those “more complete instructions”—but they’re not so much instructions as they are questions.
The questions we explore in Confirmation are questions that can help build meaningful relationships, questions that can turn our lives inside out, questions that invite us to a greater sense of intimacy with God, and questions that can lead us into adventures we have not yet imagined.
The fall preaching series is closely linked to our Confirmation curriculum. In years past the series associated with Confirmation has been called Confirmation for the Whole Church or Confirmation for Everyone. This year I am calling it: Questions for a Lifetime of Faith.
Irvin Yalom, the psychotherapist and author, once wrote: The rational questions one can pose about meaning will always outlast the answers. Confirmation is not about answers to questions; it is about questions that form our faith. Yes, there are responses to these questions, both traditional responses and newer ones, and they are really good answers—time-tested and wise. But the answers change with our experience; they change over time. The questions persist, and they frame our lives. We do not stop asking questions, and they are an indispensible part of our faith.
Nearly everyone I know has experienced some time in their lives when questions about their faith overwhelmed them and seemed to shake their very foundations. That seems to be the nature of our journey in God. As Barbara Brown Taylor recently said: “For many years I thought my questions and my doubt and my sense of God’s absence were all signs of my lack of faith, but now I know this is the way the life of the spirit goes.”
Our hope in the Confirmation process is to culminate it by asking the confirmands: “What questions do you have now?” And in this process we hope to prepare them for the reality that their faith will be shaken; it happens in the normal course of growing in faith. We don’t fail when we question—we can and will come back to faith—we grow. Confirmation is in part about coming to that understanding.
And part of the confirmation process is to allow our questions to change, perhaps from Who am I? to Whose am I? From Why me? to What next? From What am I supposed to get out of this? to What do I get to offer? We will also ask these kinds questions: Why are we here—here at 47 Jefferson, here as part of a church? What or who is God, and how can I learn anything about God? How does this Bible really work? I just don’t get Communion: What is that all about? What is Love trying to do here? Why is there so much pain in the world?
As the confirmands will each be writing a statement of faith, we would like to invite all those in the congregation to join in that project. Over the nine weeks of this series, I invite you also to try your hand and stating what you believe at this point in your life. I hope that you will join us and our young people, as we explore these questions for a lifetime of faith. The series begins on September 21.