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This last week has seen the beginning of the Confirmation Courses. They take as their starting point the simple observation that there is something of Christ in all of us. Their aim is to lead those who take part to consciously recognise the Christ in themselves and to begin to work for his release.
The first part of the Course concentrates on Jesus himself. It portrays him as the man who reaches out beyond himself. We begin by assembling a "Sunday School" life of Jesus. This reveals the man who reaches out beyond himself in the service of others. We then go over some of the material again, but this time adding in the understanding and insights that are the fruit of modern archaeological and biblical research. This reveals the man who reaches out beyond himself in the service of God. We recognise that same capacity to reach out in ourselves, but we also recognise a self-centredness that holds us back. The question now, therefore, is how to release it.
Part two concentrates on how our capacity to reach out beyond ourselves can be released. It looks at the practice of service. It looks at what "do the loving thing towards others" actually entails. It looks at the practice of prayer. It looks at how prayer can both increase our God-centredness and also reinforce our love and concern for our fellow men. It also looks at the relevance of Church membership, of joining with the whole community of people who are seeking to reach out beyond themselves, pooling their time, talents, energies, and resources to carry on Christ's work of worship, teaching, and service.
The third part of the Course looks at the journey and the goal. It looks at the overall journey as mapped out in the architecture of the church, with the nave expressing where we are, the title ar representing where we are trying to get to, and the screen representing the self-centredness that stands in our way. And it looks at the goal we are working for. It looks at communion as the service that expresses the ideal we are trying to achieve - a world in which all are at one with God, with each other, and with themselves. And, finally, and rather contrarily, it looks at the start of the journey. It ends by asking people if they now want to be confirmed, and, if the answer is "yes", it begins to explore with them what part they might play, at least to start with, in the life and work of the Church.
In the sentence that opened this morning's service, we heard Paul declaring of Christians, that 'God will bring them to life with Jesus'. The Confirmation Course puts it slightly differently. It is undertaken in the hope that through it God will bring to life the Jesus within them.