When we were little children we did not invent language. Rather, we heard it from our parents and we repeated back what we heard from them. We said the same things they did. The biblical word that we translate as confess literally means just that: “to say the same thing”. In the Gospel lesson appointed for Reformation Sunday, our Lord Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” When we confess our faith, we are simply repeating back the saving truth God has already revealed to us in Jesus.
When Martin Luther and his fellow reformers of the sixteenth century wrote the small catechism and the other confessions of faith, they were not trying to be original, creative, or groundbreaking. Instead, they were trying to be more like little children, simply repeating back the truth revealed by God in sacred scripture without the embellishments, additions, and distortions that had crept into the Church’s teaching over the years and that had obscured the biblical truth of salvation by grace alone.
On Reformation Sunday my family attended our home congregation, Chapel of the Cross, for the first time in over four months, and my daughter Ellie and the rest of her class were confirmed. When they were baptized as little children, the congregation confessed the faith into which they were baptized but which they could not yet articulate. Now we rejoice that God’s Spirit has sustained them in that faith so that they made public confession of it yesterday. God bless you all, confirmands of 2015!
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:23)