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The Word of the Lord; "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:12-14

This month we celebrate Confirmation Sunday. Six youth confirm their faith and trust in Christ Jesus. They themselves have confessed their faith and vowed their fidelity to the Lord God. In church it is a celebration. In some homes, families further celebrate this important milestone in their son's or daughter's life. Hopefully it will be a day they will always remember with fond memories. Perhaps you can think back and recall the day of your Confirmation.

I can remember my Confirmation at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minnesota. But my growth in the Christian faith did not end that day. Since then I have daily needed to study God's Word and pray to my Savior. I have needed to grow with other Christians in Bible Study, the Divine Service, and by receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This has been important because I have not yet been made perfect. I have not yet arrived in heaven. I still struggle with my sinful nature and the temptations and troubles of this world. My Christian race is not yet completed.

The Apostle Paul made a similar statement in the words of Philippians 3:12-14. When Paul said he needed to press on toward the goal this was quite remarkable. After all Jesus had appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and called him to faith. Paul had seen revelations of heaven that we can only dream about. (2 Corinthians 12:1-6) Paul was inspired by God to write many words of Holy Scripture. Paul had preached the word; he had been beaten and imprisoned for his faith. He had demonstrated that he was willing to lose everything, even his own life, rather than forsake the Christian faith. Yet Paul wrote that he still needed to press on toward the goal for he had not yet arrived in heaven or achieved perfection.

This is a truth that I pray each confirmed person understands as well. Not just the confirmed of 2019, but each and every one of us regardless of what year we were confirmed. Not one of us has already been made perfect. Not one of us reading this article has already arrived in heaven. Our faith has not yet achieved its final goal. It is important for us to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus."

We cannot do this on our own. It is only something that God in His grace will work in our lives. When Jesus was tempted to avoid the cross, He pressed on to Calvary to make payment for our sins. When Jesus was buried in the tomb, He pressed on to Easter. He rose to life opening heaven for all who believe in Him.

Now God desires to cause your faith to grow so that you may receive his perfection in heavenly glory. It is God who will bring this work to its completion (Philippians 1:6), but He does so through the means He provides - namely His Word and Sacrament. It is therefore important that we continue to gather regularly in church for the Divine Services, that we regularly receive the body and blood of our Lord shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins, and that daily we press on toward the goal through our own Bible reading and study. It is important that we make good use of these means of grace for through these means God will bring to completion the good work of salvation He has begun in our lives.

Our Christian run is not a short sprint that ends when we are confirmed but it is a marathon. Whether we were confirmed this year or 75 years ago, it is important that we press on toward the goal for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.

May God grant to you His Holy Spirit so that by His grace you may run with perseverance the lifelong marathon of faith which was confirmed in you.

Pastor Schoenfeld