Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Confirmed Christian

Not that I wasn't a Christian before, but it's especially meaningful now to have representation from the ancient Church confirm it. How refreshing it is to be "confirmed" as a believer, and received fully into the Christian community in a way that is recognizable by expressions of the Church even outside my home culture. It has often grated on me that my Christianity would not be recognizable outside of America since the American brand of Christianity has shed so much of what has been, throughout history, considered Christian. It is rather gracious that an expression of the ancient Church within the U.S. would so understand the Christian landscape within the U.S. so as to accept my assertion of being Christian even though I know so little of what it is to be Christian. In a way, we have entered into a more elaborate and full expression of what it means to be Christian than we have ever enjoyed before. Many who enter the Anglican church often speak of the sensation of "coming home." I understand their sentiments. Robert Webber, in his book Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, shares stories of people with experiences similar to our own.

How we prepared our children for this was no small task. Let's face it. They were in for quite a shock. The evening prior to their first liturgical service we had a family worship time in which we sought to use cogent illustrations to not only explain what they were going to experience Sunday morning, but get excited about it as well. We used the analogy of adventure movies: Indiana Jones, National Treasure, The Mummy, etc. In these stories, the hero usually needs to (1) know the history, (2) understand the traditions that grew out of the history of an ancient culture, and (3) interpret the symbols of that culture to find the priceless goal. In other words, history, tradition and symbol were to be inextricably linked with high adventure. During family worship in our house, a game is usually invented to illustrate the major point. Some games are more fun (like the time we rigged the living room like a ship deck in a storm to teach a lesson from the book of Jonah), while some require more thinking on the kids' part. On this occasion, we had the kids imagine that Indiana Jones is setting out to discover an ancient Christian city, whose treasure is more valuable today than ever. What history would Indy need to know? What ancient Christian traditions does he need to understand? What Christian symbols must he be able to decipher to be successful in his quest?

The lists they gave us were alarmingly insightful. They listed the history surrounding the time of the great ecumenical Creeds. They noted the traditions of the Eucharist (Communion), Baptism, singing, preaching, praying and giving. According to the kids, Indy would need to be able to fully interpret symbols such as the Cross or the Dove, or symbols for the Trinity. My wife and I were amazed. The kids saw themselves as entering a Christian "adventure movie" wherein they, like Indy, would need to know history, tradition and symbols to "discover" treasures of Christian worship that were new to all of us. These treasures would be common to the Anglican community we were entering, but they were quite new to us. Interestingly, our children anticipated church services the following morning with excitement, challenging one another on how many Christian symbols they will detect, and decipher their meaning.

When we went to the Church of the Holy Communion, we knew very little of the protocols and customs. We must have been quite a sight to some sitting around us as we fumbled through the Book of Common Prayer to find our place in the service. Nevertheless, the time for confirmands to come forward and have the presiding Bishop lays his hands on our head and pray a blessing for us was at the beginning of the service, and we had been previously coached on what to do for that segment.

How wonderful it is to worship in a Christian context that traffics so fluently in history, tradition and symbol. How refreshing it is to be enveloped in the rich living heritage that surrounds and accepts you. How deep it is to worship in ways that can claim nearly two thousand years of continuity. To be "confirmed" into such a setting and community of believers is indeed a privilege that one does not demand, but instead humbly requests out of reverence for a holy God. As a result, the confirming hands of the presiding Bishop seem, mystically, to confer the acceptance of the Apostolic community of the first century. Indeed our family has entered an "adventure movie." Where else would an aspiring "Indiana Jones" worship?


Deb said...

Dude, you better keep track of these and write a book! I miss my liturgical roots and relate to your blog completely.

Matthew B. said...

Aaron, great to worship with you and your family at CHC the last few weeks -- look forward to getting to know y'all better. (Fr. Doug passed on the link to your blog post.)

John said...

Aaron, not too surprised - and happy for you and your family. Enjoy the trek into Narnia, where the poisoned waters of your stories have been healed.