Renew. Send. Strengthen. Empower. Sustain. Continue. Recognize. Receive. Bless. Preserve. Keep. Direct. Uphold.
While the Baptismal Covenant on the preceding page (BCP 416) of the Confirmation rite is also full of powerful action images, these words, taken from the Collect and the bishop’s prayers over the candidates, confirm the abiding commitment God has to the nurture and formation of God’s people. They speak of God’s intention for each of us as we commit ourselves to spiritual paths. They promise that what God has started, God can finish . . . if we will hold up our end of the relationship.
Need to be reminded of what God desires and/or will give to you? These thirteen words form a pretty good litany all by themselves. Try reciting them in a moment of prayer.
Need a shorter list? Try these seven from the Prayers for the Candidates (BCP 305): Deliver. Open. Fill. Keep. Teach. Send. Bring.
Braver? Do the same thing with the Baptismal Covenant!
As the one in the Diocese of Idaho who is privileged to be the layer-on-of-hands, I cannot express how moving it is to represent God’s faith community in the welcoming of new Episcopalians and those others who make a mature, public, affirmation of what God is doing in their lives.
It is the phrase “who has begun a good work in you” that seems to catch me up every time. Certainly, those presenting themselves for confirmation, reception, and reaffirmation are enjoying a moment of accomplishment, recognition, and commitment that has a celebratory sense to it. They have arrived and it is a blessing. However, we know it is also a beginning.
Cupping their heads in my hands and looking them in the eyes, I sometimes wonder if they really know what they are in for? If the Holy Spirit has begun a good work in us, we should be careful not to interpret “good’ as pleasant. Good work, in the hands of God, rarely means comfort. More likely, actions like letting go, giving up, and taking onwill be the nature of our experience. The Spirit’s good work will be good for us – in the making-us-better-disciples or more-in-tune-with-God sorts of ways. Not so much in the making-our-lives-be-perfect/happy sort of way.
My revision to the rite: “Being careful what you ask for, may the Holy Spirit, who has begun a good work in you, direct and uphold you in the service of Christ and his kingdom.”
May it be so.