St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Baptismal Covenant Confirmation Handbook St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Introduction Confirmation is an important time in the process of becoming a mature member of the Christian community in the Episcopal Church. This is the opportunity for maturing young people to respond to the work God has begun in them at Baptism. All Baptized Christians are part of The Church. Baptism is God’s ‘yes and amen’ to you as a Christian. You are sealed as one of God’s own for all time. Confirmation is your chance to say ‘yes’ to God’s decision to make you a Christian. A good analogy might be a marriage. Baptism is the part in the wedding vows when God says “I do”, and confirmation is the part of the wedding vows when YOU say “I do”. What you are confirming is the baptismal covenant found on Pg 304 of the Book of Common Prayer. You should look over and read this prayer many times over the next few weeks. The covenant is basically a re-statement of the Apostle’s creed in a different format. The Apostle’s Creed, and the Baptismal covenant, is a variation on the prayer written by St. Athanasius, and forms a broad outline of Christian faith. The Creed as it exists today is the result of hundreds of years of debate and study by Christian theologians trying to work out the implications of the events of the Old and New Testament for our church. To know the Creed is to know what it means to be a mainline protestant. Over the next 2 months we are going to examine the covenant and the creed in a lot of detail. We will be looking at exactly what you are being required to affirm in each part of the creed and covenant. This will include studies of Biblical history, church history, and scripture, as well as extended periods of prayer and self-examination. It’s very important that you take this event as seriously as possible. This should be a time of increased church attendance, prayer, and personal Bible study. To aid you in this process, you will have this workbook, online time via chat rooms with other students and the class leader, Joshua Orsak, and more. Please complete these to the best of your ability. This is a time of free decision on your part. Consider what you are being taught, and grapple with the question “why do I want to be a Christian member of the Episcopal Church?” St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Introduction This is the central question you will be trying to answer. Hopefully, this will be a time where your faith is deepened and your understanding of Christianity widened. It will not be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Try to be an active participant in the process. If you don’t understand something say so, if you are having trouble, ask other students or your leader for help. During chat room periods, try to answer the questions as best you can, and when given the opportunity, feel free to ask questions of your own. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The Scripture The scripture reading this week is: Deuteronomy 30:11-20 Discussion Questions What are some of the reasons you want to get confirmed? Read the Bible passage. What are some words and phrases that stick out to you? What do you like about the passage? Is there anything about it you don’t like? St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Lesson 1 QUESTION: DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD? The Response “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” The Experience Write a personal creed. What do you believe? What describes you essentially? This is like an advertisement for yourself: St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions: What does it mean to have ‘faith’? Different people have given different answers to this question throughout history. Some people believe faith to be a kind of knowledge, others have described it as a kind of irrational feeling, and still others have called faith a ‘commitment’ or ‘choice’. In the Episcopal Church, this latter definition is probably the most widely used. To “believe in God” as the Episcopal Church understands it does NOT mean: To be certain God exists. To be without doubts. To believe without any evidence. To believe that no one else can have any handle on the truth because they disagree with you. “Belief” is a choice, for Episcopalians, a movement of the whole self. It is a way of saying ‘yes’ or ‘amen’ to a certain way of looking at the world. What is God? No one can answer this question for you. People, even within Christianity, and even within the Anglican communion itself, have held different views about what God is. People have thought of God as an impersonal force or as a Being with a mind, thoughts, desires, and expectations. They have imagined him as One and without division, or they have believed in many gods. Generally, as Christians, we are committed to drawing our vision of God from the Bible. The God of the Bible is defined by a few key characteristics. God is seen as being a PERSON, as someone who loves us, responds to us, and acts on our behalf. God is seen as ONE. That is, there is a single God who sees, judges and interacts with the world. Finally, God is said to be GOOD. That is, God seeks to make the world a better place. This is known as ETHICAL MONOTHEISM, the view that there is One God and therefore One absolute standard of right and wrong. Christians believe that the quest to be religious and the quest to be a good person are intertwined, that morality matters. It is because we make morality important as human beings that ethical monotheism speaks to us. If you think virtue is an important part of the religious life, this approach to God will make a lot of sense. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions: What is the relationship between God and The World? This is an important question Christians don’t answer much these days, but that is extremely relevant to issues such as: how do we reconcile religion and science. Some people think of God as identical with the world. The world simply IS God. Some people think the world and God are completely separate, God is like a scientist looking into an experiment, and getting involved from time to time, still others think of God like a force that is a part of the world, like a kind of spiritual gravity. Finally, some think the world is a part of God, but God is more than just the world. It is common nowadays to think of God as ‘creating’ the world continuously, rather than having simply created it billions of years ago. Questions you need to ask yourself regarding this issue include: how do you reconcile science and faith? And how do I relate to God? If God is ‘Almighty’, why is their so much evil in the world? This is an old problem, stretching back to the Book of Job. It is classically known as the idea of ‘theodicy’ or the problem of evil. If God is all-powerful, and all- good, why does evil continue, why do good people suffer, and so on. There are many solutions people have offered. Some people attribute evil to human freedom, others claim that there is freedom in the universe itself, some see evil and suffering as a test to help us become the best people we can be, and still others think that evil happens to us because we deserve it. Some people deny that God is all powerful or all knowing, and still others believe that there is a cosmic counter-force to God, like Satan. Finally, some believe that God Himself suffers, and so suffering is an essential part of existence. The Scriptures The Scriptures for this week are: Matthew 25:14-30 Judith 8:12-14 Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Discussion Questions: What do you think about when you think about God? Look at the various answers to the problem of evil. Which interest you and why? What can the Parable of the Talents teach us about faith? What does Judith say about us knowing God? What should the Christian attitude be towards people of other faiths? St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Lesson 2 DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD? The Response I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit ...and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, ...was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven ...and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. The Experience Light a match. Before the match burns down, say as many words and phrases about God, Christ, and God in Christ as you can. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions: What is all this stuff about Jesus? Opinions about who Christ was and what our attitude towards Him should be have differed throughout history. Historically, there was a single official position of the Catholic and most Protestant churches, and deviation from that official position was considered heretical, meaning it could get you thrown out of the Church. Nowadays, that official position is still strongly emphasized, but there is no longer a system of strict punishment for those who don’t hold to it, in the mainstream protestant churches. Some groups still look harshly on those who hold to views considered ‘heresy’. Because Jesus is both and object of worship and a historical figure, attitudes about Jesus are shaped by theological studies and by historical studies. We discuss who Jesus was from the perspective of the church, even as we use the tools of science to reconstruct a story of Jesus as a person within history. Often, the image of Jesus we get from historians conflicts with the picture of Jesus we are given in the Bible, church tradition, and theology. Reconciling the information from these sources is no easy task, and no one can make decisions for you on how you should approach the varying points of view. You have to work out who Christ is FOR YOU with ’fear and trembling’, seeking the truth and holding fast to what you know to be good. However, it has become commonplace to talk about the “Jesus of history’ and the “Christ of faith” to distinguish the two different approaches. This distinction will help us as we discuss the broad positions on who Christ is. Please note that this list in no way exhausts the varying opinions One group of opinions usually considered heretical is broadly called ‘docetisms’. This is the view that what really matters, what we really worship, is not the Jesus of history, but only the Christ of faith. Some docetisms have claimed that Jesus only APPEARED human, but was really only God. Others claim that God has taken on the image of Jesus, that we worship God behind the image of Jesus Christ but that Jesus Himself wasn’t really God. Others claim Jesus was some kind of divine Avatar, a kind of angelic being, but not a human. In all cases the emphasis is on Jesus’ divinity and not His humanity. And in any case it is not Jesus the man who Christians worship, but Jesus the God. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions: The so-called “Church Fathers”, those who helped establish what would be called the mainstream or orthodox position, spent a lot of time arguing against heretical positions. In the case of Docetisms, the charge is that if God isn’t really a man, a human being, than God doesn’t really share in the human condition. Part of what makes the Jesus story so important is that God reconciles Himself to mankind. God is not an aloof, otherworldly king who cannot sympathize with us, but is ‘one of us’ and knows what we’re going through. God becomes accessible, relatable, and lovable. Without the human side of Jesus, we lose part of the salvific significance, part of what made Jesus’ death so profound. Another set of heresies can broadly be called ‘ebionite’. These claim that Jesus is simply a man, and that it is what Jesus teaches that really matters. These heresies range from those who think Jesus is God’s ADOPTED Son, to people who see Jesus as a great philosopher or teacher, who tells us ABOUT God, but is not God Himself. The problem here is that Jesus’ teachings weren’t all that unique. Lots of people taught what Jesus taught about peace and love. And so it’s not clear how Christianity can be Jesus-centered in this case. Plus Jesus’ life and death matters because presumably it helps us understand GOD. Jesus Himself is supposed to be what is called a ‘revelation’ of God. If Jesus is not truly God, then it is unclear why we worship Him, or how we can believe we are forgiven for our sins, since forgiveness comes from God. It is important to note that many Christians hold to docetisms or ebionite positions for many good reasons, and you will likely meet some in the Episcopal Church. But the official doctrine of the church is that Jesus is BOTH ALL God and ALL man. You see this in your response today. Jesus life and death are put in a historical context. He was a real man, born of a real woman, under a real governor, who really died. But there is also insistence that Jesus is truly God and God’s Son. He is conceived by the Power of the Spirit, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of His father. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions: People have always had a hard time understanding how Jesus could be completely the God of ethical monotheism and ‘just a man’, but if you believe Jesus is your savior AND you buy into the arguments as to why a savior needs to have shared in our lives yet reveal the God of the Old Testament, then the orthodox position should make a lot of sense. Scripture Hebrews 4:14-5:10 John 14:7 Discussion Questions Explain the various positions on who Jesus is. Which one do you believe is closer to the truth and why? Why does it matter that Jesus is a human being, according to the Hebrews passage? Why does it matter that Jesus is God, according to John? St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Lesson 3 DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT The Response I believe in the Holy Spirit ...the holy catholic Church ...the communion of saints ...the forgiveness of sins ...the resurrection of the body ...and the life everlasting The BIG Questions What is the Holy Spirit? It is unfortunate that much less has been written about the Holy Spirit in Christian theology and so there is a lot less to discuss on this matter than there should be. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, as much God as Jesus Christ or the Father, Yahweh. The Holy Spirit is first mentioned in the Old Testament, and is more often called the Spirit of The Lord, or The Breath of God. It also is closely tied to, and is often interchangeable with, a being known as Wisdom. The Holy Spirit empowers and fills up God’s people, and assists in creation. Some theologians have suggested that the Holy Spirit is the feminine person of the Trinity. It certainly played some role in the Incarnation of Jesus, and is mentioned to Mary as the way in which God would ensure that she had His Son. The Holy Spirit is how God incorporates God’s people into Himself. It is both our response to God in Christ and God within us. The Father is God over us, Jesus is God with us, and the Holy Spirit is God within us. God moves the universe, and while doing that reveals Himself to us. That revelation, that God showing Himself, is Jesus Christ. When we respond to Jesus Christ, when we move TOWARDS Him and become more like Him, we become a part of Him. This movement, this response, is the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament and in the New Testament, people are often trying to discern God’s Spirit and how the Spirit is moving and who it is moving through. The Spirit is Holy Mystery, it is dynamic and ever-changing, but that does not mean we can’t have some idea as to when we are encountering it. In the Old Testament, different groups of people claimed access to the Spirit. For instance, the King, the prophets, and the priests would at various times claim that they were the ones who followed the Spirit. This would cause conflicts as they would all try to claim the authority that comes from being a part of God. When Jesus came, He said that after His death a promise made to the prophets would come true for those who followed Him, a promise that God would pour out the Holy Spirit upon His people. On Pentecost, after Jesus’ death, that promise was fulfilled, and the early church received special powers through their access to God’s Holy Spirit. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions Those powers included the ability to speak in various languages, including the languages of angels, healings, and more. But many of the gifts of the Spirit, the moving of God within God’s people, were subtler, and had to do with a change in who we are. Gifts of the spirit include knowledge, wisdom, kindness, encouragement, holiness, discernment, faith, hope and love. Today, questions about when the Spirit is acting still abound. Some churches make a very big deal of the ‘Baptism of the Spirit’, as something separate from the baptism by water. They focus on big, dramatic transformations in character and special powers being bestowed upon the one who receives the Holy Spirit. Just as we said earlier, the Spirit is response, and this type of church, called a charismatic church, suggests that the response that really lets us know we have received the Spirit is the gift of tongues (speaking in foreign or divine languages) and other supernatural, magical gifts. Most churches, however, don’t look for these kinds of gifts. And in the Episcopal Church, they don’t play much of a role at all. Rather, the primary way we encounter the Spirit is through our response in worship and our response ethically. In worship, through the sermon, through the reading of the Word, and especially through the sacraments, God in Christ comes close to us; we experience Christ through these things. Then when we respond, in the prayers, and by doing things like taking the bread, the Holy Spirit becomes present in our hearts, minds and souls. Further, when someone is hurt or in need, they become Christ for us. When we respond to their need, the Holy Spirit fills us up, and we become Christ for them. It is through these experiences that you come to know the Holy Spirit, and learn to deal with the major questions that Christians have to wrestle with when it comes to the Spirit. Questions you have to explore include questions like whether the Holy Spirit is ONLY present in the Christian community, or whether it is present in non-Christians and in nature as well. You have to try to discern through your experience of the Spirit HOW you are going to identify the Spirit when it acts, and what that Spirit is really like. One thing to remember is that the Spirit always calls us to community. We can’t know the Spirit separate from the entire Christian community; it is the Spirit that makes us the Body of Christ. That is why all those other questions follow the question about the Spirit, because that question is relevant to all the others. You cannot talk about the church, without talking about the Holy Spirit. Why do we say we are catholic, I thought we were Episcopalians? It is important to distinguish the adjective ‘catholic’ from the noun ‘Catholic’. In this context, catholic means ‘universal’. The Church is the Church for all people; it does not make distinctions based on race, gender, or class. Jesus sought to create a new community based on a brotherhood of mankind before God, and not on identification with any group. Traditionally, it hasn’t done too well in this department. The church has often been divisive, St. Thomas The Apostle St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions and treated people differently because they were of a different race, or religion, or because they were poor. It is important to know that the church considers this counter to Jesus’ message and Paul himself clearly attacks these kinds of attitudes. What the heck is a saint? The Christian church has talked about saints since the beginning. Different people have different attitudes about the saints. The Roman Catholics and Orthodox Catholics treat saints as people who achieved in their own lifetime a kind of perfection, and who thus are living revelations of Christ. The protestant reformation has given us a much more muted view of the saints as moral exemplars, people who show us the best Christian life possible, but not a perfect life. The Episcopal Church generally believes saints to uniquely reflect the life of Christ within them, but do not take them to be perfect. Most importantly, you should remember that you are not required to become a saint yourself. You do not have to be perfect to receive salvation; Jesus Christ saves us IN SPITE of our sin, not because we are sinless. Hopefully, your relationship with Christ will move you closer to being a righteous person, but it is not the righteousness that saves you. Christ did that on the cross, already. This brings us to our next issue... What does it mean to be saved? This is another hard question, but if it means anything it means that in the final analysis, Jesus took our sins upon Him and thereby over came them. There are many different ways to look at this. Some people think that Jesus is punished so that we don’t have to be. Jesus gets the punishment for our sins, the punishment we deserve. Others think of Jesus as kind of defeating the Devil, tricking the Devil into putting Him on the Cross and thus destroying Satan. Still others say that since Jesus shares in the consequences of our sins, since what we do to others we have done to Jesus, God has gained the right to forgive. However you look at it, this point is important: none of us is deserving of God’s love and forgiveness, and all of us fall short of His expectations and desires. Yet because of what Jesus did, God can and does forgive us and love us anyways. What is that about living forever? Besides sin, Jesus also saves us from death. The forgiveness Jesus gives, the Grace He represents, is totally reviving. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we share in the eternal. Many people have looked at this gift in different ways as well. Some think only of the resurrection of the body, important because it reminds us that this world matters. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions Others think of an otherworldly heaven, some think of some combination of both or something else entirely. But this much is clear: Jesus was the Eternal alive in history, and through Him we share in the eternal. Scripture Acts Chapter 2 Discussion Question How would you describe the Holy Spirit? What is the early church like? What does this tell us about what the church should be? What divides you from other people? From God? What can you do to overcome these? St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) WILL YOU CONTINUE IN THE APOSTLE’S TEACHINGS AND FELLOWSHIP, IN THE BREAKING OF BREAD, AND IN THE PRAYERS? The BIG Questions What is this stuff about the Apostles, and why should I care? The Episcopal Church does not teach that scripture is the sole source of revelation. God reveals Himself in three primary ways, according to the Episcopal Church: through scripture, through reason, and through tradition. Scripture alone can be interpreted any number of ways. You have to have a larger context that you can use to UNDERSTAND what it is you’re reading. Tradition and reason are the tools you use to understand scripture, and they are ways God reveals Himself in their own rights. The Book of Common Prayer is the second most important scripture for the Episcopalian. The prayers and rites contained therein give a form and context to the reading of the Bible, and are foundational to an Anglican’s relationship with God. The Anglican Communion, and the Episcopal Church, puts a heavy emphasis on what is known as patristics. Patristics is the study of the earliest church, its practices and beliefs. We seek to recreate the vision of the early Church Fathers, and so we engage in rituals, prayers, and attitudes that have roots in the beginning of Christianity. This is why we emphasize the teachings of the APOSTLES; our attempt to recreate their vision of the early Church is an attempt to ensure that we are properly interpreting scripture, in and through the traditions. What is fellowship? As we saw in the last section, Jesus didn’t just want a group of people who happened to be Christian to worship together occasionally, but rather he sought to have a new community, a new humanity in which you discover who you really are and realize that that is the reality of Christ existing in the world today. Christ existing as community. Jesus wanted us to be part of a family, one that included in it God Himself. This is very important to an Episcopalian: you cannot understand who you are, or what it means to be saved, outside the context of your community, your extended family. This is emphasized nowhere more strongly than in the Anglican Communion, and it distinguishes us from other protestant faiths and puts us closer to he Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Fellowship is making sure you put the community at the center of all you do; it is transcending isolation and finding salvation in and through other people. It is realizing that who you are, your very self, is not atomized, individualistic, but that who you are is inclusive of an ever widening circle of community, opening up finally in all of humanity and in the very cosmos itself, in God. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions It is realizing that you are a part of everyone, everyone is a part of you, and all are a part of God. Why do we care so much about bread and wine? The Lord’s Supper, which we celebrate at every worship service, is the very center of our worship lives, and it has been since the very beginnings of Christianity. The tradition is an offshoot of the Jewish worship of Passover, and represents the Passover meal that Jesus ate the night before He died. But Jesus changed the context of the meal, infusing it with a new meaning. It is a way to help us encounter Jesus’ sacrifice directly. It is not enough to just hear about what Jesus did, and learn about forgiveness of sin, but you must rather EXPERIENCE it, with all that entails. The Episcopal Church is a sacramental faith which means that it believes that physical events and objects can have spiritual dimensions within them. We do not teach that the bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Jesus, but rather that Jesus is present ‘in, through and under’ the eating of the bread and wine, just as God is ‘in through and under’ all of our sacraments. We call these events ‘visible signs of invisible grace’. It is also through the sacraments, as we said before, that we encounter the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what MAKES Jesus and God present to us in the sacraments. When we ACT sacramentally, we respond to Christ, and that response IS the Holy Spirit. These activities have grounds in the earliest parts of the Bible. The ancient Hebrews, like Jews today, see God in every aspect of life, and all of life is treated as a sacrament. Why do we read our prayers? And what is prayer all about anyways? Prayers are read in the Episcopal Church as a way to ensure orderly and unified worship. It is a play on the insight we spoke of earlier: that Christ is present in the community. We seek not to be just a bunch of individuals, but truly one, in our worship. Worship is a Holy Art, and knowing your role and place is vitally important. Reading prayers helps us ensure that we DO know our place. The prayers of worship are not the only kinds of prayer. There are petitionary prayers, in which we ask things of God, blessings, prayers of thankfulness, and so on. The primary purpose of ALL prayer is to honestly reach out to God, to stand as the people we truly are before Him, St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions ...creating through our activities, “holy moments” that make God more present in our lives. Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian Orthodox thinker, called prayer ‘a kind of education’. It is through prayer that we learn that God IS, that we are dependent on Him, and that He makes demands of us. Without a developed prayer life, you will always hit an upper ceiling in your growth as a Christian. Scripture John 17:22-26 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Discussion Questions What is a sacrament? Why is it important for a Christian to be in relationship with other people? How are you at forging relationships? Why is prayer important? What is your prayer life like? How can we improve our prayer lives? What does Jesus say He wants for His followers? What does He mean by this? Why does Paul say we should take part in the Lord’s Supper? What kind of worship does Paul describe in 1 Corinthians 14? What does this reveal about how we worship, using the prayer book? St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) WILL YOU PERSEVERE IN RESISTING EVIL, AND WHENEVER YOU FALL INTO SIN, REPENT AND RETURN TO THE LORD? The BIG Questions What is sin? One important thing to remember about the Christian church is that we recognize the reality of evil. “Evil” for most Christians is not just an expression of attitude. We are not just saying we don’t like something when we label it ‘evil’, we acknowledge evil as something real. How we account for that ‘something’ is another story. Some see evil as a particularly human moral failing. When you disobey God’s laws, when you do what God asks you not to do, and you do so in an extreme way, you are committing evil. Notice the reality of evil: there really is a ‘law of God’ and there is such at thing as breaking that law. But other images of evil take on a more imaginative scope. Some people think of evil as something that is active and moving in the universe. Evil extends beyond the human realm and encompasses all suffering and death. The most powerful image of this kind of ‘supernatural’ evil is the devil. Some Episcopalians believe in the devil in some way shape or form, others do not. Sin is an idea that is related to evil but is not the same thing as evil. Sin is separation from God and from other people. Traditionally, Episcopalian and other Christians have taught that you are born into a state of sin, but that through Christ’s sacrifice, and through the sacraments, this separation from God is overcome. This is called the doctrine of ‘Original Sin’. It is a vital recognition of the importance of Jesus’ saving act and our absolute need to have God save us through His Son. Not all Episcopalians hold to the view of sin nature as some kind of inherited stain any more. Some believe that this stain was removed when Jesus died; others have more abstract ways of viewing ‘original sin’. For instance, some think that because society itself is engaged in corporate sin, some of that sin kind of stains us when we are born. Like the conceptions of evil, you have to come to your own St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) The BIG Questions ...understanding of what sin is. But in the end this much is a very important part of the Christian faith: that something in this world (our own actions, the sins of our ancestors, the Devil), has caused us to be separated from God, but that God has chosen to overcome that separation and reconcile Him to us, and us to Him. The locus of that saving act, for most Christians, is the man Jesus Christ. What is repentance and what is its relationship to salvation? Repentance may best be understood in light of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is our response to Jesus Christ, and so is part of The Holy Spirit’s activity within us. Repentance, in the simplest terms is ‘turning back’ to God. It is recognition of our separation and a concerted decision to fight against it. Repentance is not simply feeling sorry for what we’ve done, it is realizing that what we have done wrong has separated us from who we are supposed to be and the life we really want to live. Repentance does not bring salvation, but it makes salvation possible. Without the shattering of the ego, without the giving up of the life we once lived, the life of separation, we cannot be prepared to take on the new life of relationship with God. Jesus Christ’s crucifixion is in part a revelation of God, but it is also a revelation of human sinfulness. It shows us how badly we are separated from God. The ugliness of Jesus’ death, the cross itself, IS our sin. If we truly come to understand that, it can help us turn our hearts around. In that sense the Cross is a kind of punishment, it shows us that what we do wrong hurts God. If you knew every time you lied it caused your mother pain, it would hurt you to know that you had hurt your mother, and hopefully it makes you work harder to stop lying. If you look at the cross, you should realize that what you do wrong hurts God. If you can absorb that fact, it will help you discover repentance, and hopefully push you to be the best person you can be. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Scripture Leviticus 4:13-19 Psalm 51 John 15:18-23 Discussion Questions What do you think evil is, really? Do you believe people are born sinful? Why or why not? Do you believe in the Devil? Why or why not? Have you ever done anything so badly that it really ‘stuck’ with you? How did you respond to this feeling? Why did the Jews sacrifice animals when they sinned? What does the Psalm passage say about sacrifice? What does God really want from us? What does Jesus say His coming did to those who sinned? St. Thomas The Apostle St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Lesson 6 WILL YOU PROCLAIM BY WORD AND EXAMPLE THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD IN CHRIST The Response “I will, with God’s Help” The BIG Questions What is the “Good News”? We read “The Gospels” every week, “Gospel” literally means ‘good news’. The Christian is called to spread this ‘good news’, it is what it means to be an evangelist. A Christian is a proclaimer, and the community exists as a kind of physical, objective expression of Truth. Christians are responsible first and foremost to the truth. God IS Truth, for the Christian. So what is the truth that we are called to proclaim? If Christians disagree on so many things: the nature of Jesus, the nature of sin, the nature of salvation, what is it we are supposed to be telling the world. First and foremost, you are proclaiming the reconciliation of God and man. You are telling the world that God is Love, and that Love is inviting them into relationship. The Church is supposed to show the world what it is God wants for them: relationship. How do I proclaim the “Good News” and what does that even mean? And what is the substance of that message? It is the STORIES of the Bible, and especially the stories of Jesus life, death and resurrection. The sacraments are meant to help people experience these events, encounter them. The Truth must be felt, and touched, not just heard. The experience comes first, organizing one’s thoughts on what the experience means is secondary. We help people encounter God and enter into relationship with Jesus Christ, what that all means they have to figure out with us, but ultimately FOR themselves. We reach out to God together, and then work out what we have learned form that quest. Telling the stories gives people a LANGUAGE with which to speak about these matters. We enter into the story to open ourselves up to God in new ways. Beyond the stories, we preach through ACTION. St. Francis of Assisi once said “preach every day, and if you absolutely have to, use words”. Actions reveal God to other people. When you act as Jesus calls you to, remember, you are then moved by the Holy Spirit, and you BECOME a part of Jesus Christ in the world, part of His mystical body. You become a part of Christ in the world! This is the essential function of the Christian. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Scripture Matthew 28:18-20 1 Peter 3:15 2 Peter 2:18 Discussion Questions What is ‘the good news’ in your own words? What does Peter concentrate on in his letters, what kinds of preaching does he call us to? What do you think it means to ‘preach every day, and when you absolutely have to, use words’? What are some things you do to preach without using words? What are some things you can do in the future to improve on this point? St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Prayer Time: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Lesson 7 WILL YOU SEEK AND SERVE CHRIST IN ALL PERSONS, LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF? . The BIG Questions Why is a service component part of the confirmation process? Episcopal churches are given a lot of leeway when it comes to the confirmation process, they are given the freedom to structure it as they see fit, but the suggestion that they include a service component that is so strong as to be nearly a requirement. This is because the Episcopal Church does not believe it is possible to truly experience Jesus Christ separate from our service of our fellow man. We encounter God in our relationships with others, not only in the church but outside of it, by serving others, by working to help other people; we make God’s Kingdom in the world more real. We train ourselves how to see the world right, through service. Service projects help us undergo the actions necessary to learn how to love, and how to encounter God in the world. We have spoken about the activity of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is God within us, and is what moves us to respond to Jesus Christ. Part of that response, part of the activity of the Holy Spirit, is the act of serving other people. What does it mean to serve Christ IN other people? Jesus is present to us in our fellow man or woman. God becomes alive within people. Part of the purpose of Jesus’ suffering on the cross is that it reveals God as what Alfred N Whitehead calls ‘the co-sufferer who understands’. God shares in our difficult experiences, and so when we suffer, so does God. To alleviate the suffering of others is to alleviate the suffering of God, therefore. The Episcopal Church takes very seriously what Jesus says in Matthew 25, which we will be looking at in the scripture section. Jesus tells us that our very salvation is tied to how we treat other people. What we do to those most in need, we are told, we do to God. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) So does this mean that I let other people just walk all over me? The simple answer to this question is: no. Notice Jesus calls us to love others AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. If being in relationship with other people turns into some kind of cycle of you being hurt over and over again, then you do no longer love yourself, and so are incapable of keeping the commandment. Sometimes self-sacrifice is called for, and self-sacrifice that is creative, that has the real potential to help others, is a good thing. But giving of yourself to some neurotic self-destructive individual over and over again is not healthy, and is not what you are called to do. God does not want you to sacrifice your own self-fulfillment at the altar of someone else’s ego. This is about becoming a whole person through genuine relationship and through regarding others as important as you, it is not about destroying yourself so others can be jerks. If self-sacrifice has the opportunity to be genuinely creative, it can be a revelation of God and a sharing in the life of Christ If it is only destructive and wasteful, it is masochism and not holy. Scripture 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Luke 10:25-37 Matthew 25:31-46 St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Discussion Questions Why do you think Jesus lists the commandments He does as the ‘greatest’? Why is service such and important part of being a Christian? In what way have you served other people? How did it affect you? Why is it important that we set boundaries for how and under what circumstances we will help others? What is the danger in making these kinds of rules, however? What does Jesus say about helping other people? What do you think of this idea? What is the parable of the Good Samaritan about, really? St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) Lesson 8 WILL YOU STRIVE FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE AMONG ALL PEOPLE, AND RESPECT THE DIGNITY OF EVERY HUMAN BEING? The Response “I will, with God’s help.” The Experience Write down on a small piece of paper your hopes for your future and the future of the world. The BIG Question How do I work for justice and peace among ALL people? A Christian is not called upon to ‘save the world’. You cannot do everything for everyone all at once; you are an individual, limited human being who is called to find their own self-satisfaction in life. But you are called to create a life that contributes to the salvation of the world. You are not an isolated, individual, but rather part of a community. We’ve talked a lot about that. The community of which you are a part is not only the Christian community, however. You are part of a society and a culture, and that culture and society are parts of a greater world wide society. And you cannot seek to find real fulfillment apart from the fulfillment of the widest communities of which you are a part. What happens to anyone in this world also happens to God, and you must act upon that knowledge. No one can do everything, but each person can be mindful of the world of which they are a part, and everybody can do SOMEthing. You can get informed and involved in the issues of our day: ensuring that justice is served around the world, working for peace, giving your money to righteous causes, doing mission trips and more. We live in a day and age of huge, worldwide problems. Ecological issues are particularly pressing in this day and time. You can recycle, you can foster an attitude of caring for the planet, there are lots of little things you can do to live up to your moral responsibilities toward this earth, and you can remind others of their moral responsibilities. St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) There is no one right way to fulfill this part of the baptismal covenant, there are many opportunities to serve to better the world. Remember, though, that part of what you give TO the world is your own fulfillment and happiness. Your own satisfaction is in and of itself a gift and you are not called to help others to the point where you have nothing left for yourself. Finally, remember that you set an example. What you do, and how others see you act, can create a chain of events that are beyond your understanding. It is to this last issue that we now turn. How do I respect the ‘dignity’ of every human being? The most important thing you can do in your effort to help God build His kingdom is to treat every person you meet with love and respect. Even those you disagree with, you must give them their say, and listen, and be open to their point of view. And how you treat others, other people will see and respond, hopefully in kind. Random acts of kindness may be the best world-changer you can engage in, and opportunities to do these come up every day. In that way, you love your neighbor, and show God love through that love, and fulfill the two great commandments, both at the same time. Scripture Isaiah 2:3-5 Luke 18:1-8 Hebrews 13:2 St. Thomas The Apostle Episcopal Church Confirmation Handbook (Youth) What do you think it means to help in the salvation of the world? How have you worked for justice and peace in the world? How can you do this in the future? Why is it so important to show everyone we meet love and respect? What kind of vision does Isaiah have for God’s Kingdom? What is it like? What does it encompass? Why does the judge give the widow justice in the Luke passage? What does this reveal about one thing we can do for justice and peace in the world? Why does the Hebrews passage say being nice to people can be important for us?
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