Jesus loved children. Not only did He enjoy their company (Mark 10:14), He invited His followers to imitate their attitude: “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4).
In Sacred Scripture not only children but young people of heroic faith are praised for their character and actions: a youthful David faces Goliath; a young Jeremiah calls the people back to God; a beautiful, youthful Esther is God’s instrument to save His people. A pattern of events suggests that the young people of our culture want serious and substantial spirituality, i.e., teaching that is drawn from Sacred Scripture, expressed in the historic creeds, and articulated in the confessions of the church. Signals multiply that young people are interested in real and serious engagement of God rather than by “religious” merchandising and entertainment. Their souls hunger for more.
Recently, I witnessed this phenomena in Helsinki, Finland. The state church’s huge cathedral normally draws fifty to eighty people to a setting where novelty and anti-Scriptural views are predominant. In sharp contrast the Pyhan Sydamen Cappelissa congregation—known for its clear Scriptural and Confessional teaching—was filled to capacity with over four hundred. Ninety percent of the congregation was under fifty with most under thirty. Many students came from the University of Helsinki.
The service, with Holy Communion, was structured after the historic liturgy and punctuated with flute, violin, choir, and organ music. While it was nearly two hours in length, it seemed like forty-five minutes—even to one seated in the rear of the balcony with a translator! The service was so striking that I later inquired of the pastor: “What type of outreach program do you use?”
The pastor’s response stressed personal contact joined to serious catechesis in the Scriptures and Christian doctrine. The pastor said: “Most of these university students come from the privileged sector of Finnish culture. They have experienced novelty, changing fashions, and changing family structures. Some have experimented with drugs and ‘alternative lifestyles’. They are weary of marketing and novelty. They hunger for what is true, permanent, beautiful, noble, and enduring.”
As young Christians in 21st Century America, you know that confessing Christ and heeding His voice in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures is not just a repetition of dead traditions or the uncritical display of a conservative temperament. No, Christ–and all that he calls us to be–are true, permanent, beautiful, noble, and enduring. His gift of baptismal identity makes every day fresh and meaningful. His Word is the bread of life. The banquet of His very body and blood is the heavenly food that satisfies the soul.
May God bring raise you up to be a courageous generation of Davids, Jeremiahs, and Esthers to witness to the light of Christ—a light, as an ancient liturgy states, that no darkness can overcome. We rejoice and give thanks to God as you make this confirmation hymn your own:
O Holy Trinity, To whom I all things owe,
Your image graciously within my heart bestow.
Choose me, though weak and lowly, to be Your temple holy.
Where praise shall rise unending for grace so condescending
Oh, heavenly bliss, Your own to be, O Holy Trinity!