In the coming weeks I will make a special effort to explore the meaning of three key teachings of the Christian church—communion, confirmation and stewardship—bringing out teachings from the lessons for the day. These three marks of the church are related in a weave of belonging and learning. The gospel of Jesus Christ calls people together into local communities in which a distinctive set of ancient teachings about the meaning of life, as well as certain expectations with regard to behavior and ethics, are recalled and interpreted for their lives. As a member of a Christian congregation you have agreed to do certain things (such as attending church services) and then to think about certain biblically-based assertions about the world (such as the statements summarized in the creed). You are not expected to believe everything you hear but you have agreed to be engaged with the claims the Christian faith makes on your life and the promises offered therein. Note that as heirs of the Reformation heritage we may never say that a vigorous questioning of orthodox Christian teaching is not allowed. We are not in the business of policing spiritual lives.All members of the church, of all ages, are involved in each of these ministries. Confirmation is not for high school students alone; first communion is not for second graders only; stewardship is not merely adult talk about money. The young people look to the older members as mentors and models of faithful living; adult members keep the younger ones in mind as they live out their Christian life and support the church. Here are some preliminary thoughts.
After our young elementary age children have received instruction in the meaning of Holy Communion they are invited into the silent, reverent reception of bread and wine, accepted through faith as the body and blood of Christ. At the altar we quiet our minds and our hearts for a moment and receive the gift of life. Outward stillness of our bodies and quiet reception of the bread and wine helps others be similarly still and quiet. At an early age of understanding, we point out this basic church “table manner” and mark a child’s first communion.Our confirmation students have taken part in the younger students’ preparation. They will play a role on the day first communion.
Confirmation students continue their Sunday morning instruction in the Christian faith. Chris Toomey is their teacher. In addition they will meet Sunday afternoons at 3 pm to explore the meaning of the Christian faith in the context of the world around them. When we leave the service every Sunday morning the assisting minister for the day says, Go in peace, serve the Lord. In our confirmation classes we will explore a little bit of what that might mean as we walk on conservation trails, visit local farms, art museums and religious buildings belonging to people of other faiths. The Christian faith has profound give-and-take outside the walls of the church. The eyes of faith see the world in a different light. The world has its own way of teaching and shaping a Christian’s faith.
We have been working on expanding our idea of stewardship as a Christian way of life. We still want the word to mean caring for and paying for the maintenance and operation of the congregation’s home and its operations, but we know now that stewardship means much more than that. The word stewardship is one of those elastic terms that expands to take in nearly all the aims of a Christian life: It means caring for the natural world around us, using the earth’s resources wisely, caring for one another as human beings, caring for the wisdom of our faith by attending church and learning, looking out for our young people by providing for their instruction in the Christian faith, etc. This last example is the job of all members of the congregation, as we model the Christian faith for our young people, and they refresh our appreciation of it with their insights and enthusiasm.
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