Confirmation, Reformation, All the Saints, and Micah and My Girl
My girl made her Confirmation this last Sunday, which also was Reformation Sunday, which wasn’t any ordinary Reformation Sunday, but was, rather, the 500th Anniverary of the first (unintentional) Reformation Day, a day which actually falls on today, the day before All Saints’ Day.
That’s a lot going on, not to mention a run-on sentence.
ANNNNDD she chose Micah 6:8 as her Confirmation text.
That’s a lot too, and together, they’ve made for an emotionally moving, significance-hefty, wallopy set of days.
Let’s start from the last thing first, namely Micah 6:8.
My two children and I have long gone to Outlaw Ranch, a camp of the Lutheran Outdoors of South Dakota (LOSD) system, nestled in the Black Hills. This place and the people within it, including the folks connected to the musical group Dakota Road, have made our world immeasurably better.
Dakota Road’s come up with countless tunes that have shaped our faith, but one called Do Justice has been most instrumental (see what I did there?), especially for my daughter Else. The lyrics for the tune are below (the tune itself is linked above) but the refrain is what has stayed with her, which is, in fact, simply Micah 6:8: Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with our God.
She’s sung it a zillion times at camp, in our home, and in our car, and the words and message have sunk in to her very soul.
Now, Else wasn’t entirely convinced that she wanted to do this Confirmation thing: the whole killing of the Egyptian first-born bugged her to no end, not to mention other troubling pieces in the story of God and God’s people, ones that keep her up at night and should keep the rest of us up too.
But this verse, this business about doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, plus our family’s dedication to—not to mention dependance on—the resurrection word that death is real and life is real-er, plus a promise from me that doubt—even radical doubt—is welcome in a life of faith, resonated with her, and moved her to throw her lot in with the Church and a life of faith.
To this sort of God, and way of life and faith, she was willing to align herself, and do so in front of God and everybody.
And the ‘everybody,’ the everybody brings us to tomorrow’s commemoration of All Saints’ Day.
There were any number of people who were not able to be with us this Sunday: her late papa was much on her mind as one of those present, though he was in Spirit.
So was her Oma, my mama who died several years ago.
So were people who are still in the land of the living, but for any number of reasons could not be in physical attendance, although they were in mind and heart, like my dear friend Sarah and her husband Mike, Else’s godparents.
(Sorry, dear. It was the only one I had of you two on my iPad….I owe you a bottle of wine, I know. Maybe two…)
And then there were those who were present, who were actually there, and in their very act of showing up marked the living and continuing Communion of the Saints.
Get this range: my aunt and uncle, in their early 90s…
and my father, a spritely almost-81…
my dear cousin’s young daughter, just beginning the First Grade…
and all sorts of family and friends in stages of life in-between (including my wonderful cousin Kris, who was taking the pic, and who, on my Confirmation eons ago, gave me the dove necklace that E is wearing in the pics above!).
The Communion of the Saints, as I say, is a Thing. Were it not for these people and their faith, and the people who raised these people and told them of the faith, and the people who raised them and told them of the faith…and on and on back to the women who first preached the Gospel that Jesus is risen, well…not only would my family not have had the feast of which you see only a partial shot in the pic above, but we would have not known the good news that life wins, and the freedom that that gives us to move through any given day, and that we try to steward in all that we do too.
And you might notice that there’s no shortage of red in these photos: that’s because we were also hoisting one for the Reformation 500 (or, to be current and hip, #Reformation500).
Else was not “baptized Lutheran,” you see, and on Sunday she didn’t “confirm her Lutheranism.”
Also, to give spleen to a pet peeve, she didn’t ‘get confirmed.’
Rather, she was baptized a Christian, and she affirmed her baptism (or, ‘confirmed her faith’).
But make no mistake, she’s a member of the Lutheran tradition, one which believes it is always reforming. These days, it is reforming—and being reformed—in radical, unexpected, unpredictable ways.
Elsegirl is making her Confirmation on the pivot point of this 500-year Anniversary (I’m totally nerding out on that, by the way).
And she’s doing it with the Communion of the Saints around her, and Micah 6:8 in her.
In the last few weeks I‘ve been presenting to various theological convocations in Iowa, and North Carolina, and Wisconsin, and the topic of the Reformation is much on people’s minds. Fact is, the issues and the world context that presented themselves to Luther are not the same ones facing us today—at least not in a 1:1 sort of way.
So the question is cropping up, “What does the Reformation mean, actually, now?”
I’m of the mind that it means, increasingly, understanding not only that we are justified, but that we are called to social justice.
Left only at ‘justification,’ the gospel runs the real risk of speaking only to the sinners, and not those sinned upon; reducing the gospel to a me-and-Jesus matter, rather than a we-and-Jesus matter; and making grace quite cheap.
Else’s choice of Micah 6:8 has everything to do with Dakota Road, and everything to do with Outlaw Ranch, and everything to do with our regular singing of it in our family; and her choice of Micah 6:8 has everything to do with the Communion of the Saints, namely this family and faith tradition into which she was born, where she is both by nature and nurture compelled to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God; and her choice of Micah 6:8 also has everything to do with this time, this new Reformation Moment, this occasion in time where the Church is realizing that quietude, that silence, that piety without prophetic acts enables more sin and evil to take hold in and of the world.
On Sunday, my girl confirmed her faith in a God who raises the dead to life, who is in solidarity with those who suffer, who redeems the poor from their poverty and the wealthy from their riches, who is angry at unrighteousness and emboldens us to be righteously indignant…and, just like Luther believed and taught others to believe, who loves and forgives us all, no matter what.
This girl of mine, this marvelous baptized child of God’s, this young woman who is both saint and sinner (though really leans more to the saint side of things, I gotta say, naturally all maternal bias aside), she knows of death, and she knows of life. She doubts and she believes, and sometimes simultaneously. She knows of and acts out of righteous indignation. She loves others…and herself, and she forgives others, and herself.
And in word and deed, she does Micah 6:8: She is already an impassioned voice of justice (first-placing in debate tournament after debate tournament, FYI); she offers mercy to people near and far, letting go of anger and letting in peace; and she walks humbly, not really having a clue of how amazing she is, yet acting with full integrity, sincerity, and humility, out of that very amazingness (making her all the more amazing).
On this Reformation 2017, then, and on this All Saints Day, and on my daughter’s Confirmation Day, I feel hope and gratitude for the Communion of the Saints, and for the Church, and for its continuing reformation, and for Micah’s vision of justice, and mercy, and humility, and perhaps most of all for my incarnate blessing-in-motion of a girl, Else Kristine, baptized and beloved Child of God.
Racing around, chasing idols
unfulfilled empty vessels
World on the edge, out of control,
will we survive, God only knows
Do justice, love mercy,
walk humbly with our God,
with our God
People broken, falling pieces,
dignity lost, loving ceases
Hopeless eyes, lonely faces,
yearning hearts, hurting places (Chorus)
Deadly hunger, desperate crying,
wounded living , children dying
Nails in the flesh, piercing fear,
why can’t we see Christ hanging here (Chorus)
Words and Music by Larry Olson and Julie Hennies Clark
©1991 Dakota Road Music.
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.