Dear confirmation pupils!
This is a very sober word. But it is good
that from the very beginning we get used to
not bragging about our faith. Faith is not
like that. Precisely because all depends
today on our really
keeping the faith, all desire for great
words fades away. Whether we believe or not
will be evident every day; protests do not
change a thing.
You know from the Passion story that Peter
says to Jesus: “Even though I must die with
you, I will not deny you,” and Jesus
answers: “Before the cock crows twice, you
will deny me three times.” And the story
ends: “And Peter went out and wept
bitterly.” He had denied his Lord. Great
assertions, even if they were said
truthfully and were meant seriously, are
always closest to denial. May God protect
you and all of us from this.
This confirmation day is an important day
for you and for us all. It is not an
insignificant thing that you profess your
Christian faith today before the
all-knowing God and before the ears of the
For the rest of your life, you shall
think back on this day with joy. But for
that very reason I admonish you today to
full Christian soberness. You shall not
and may not say or do anything on this day
that you will remember later with
bitterness and remorse, having said and
promised more in an hour of inner emotion
than a human being can and may ever say.
Your faith is still weak and untried and
very much in the beginning.
dear Lord, help my unbelief
Therefore, when later on you speak the
confession of your faith, do not rely on
yourselves and on your good intentions and
on the strength of your faith, but rely
only on the one whom you confess, on God
the Father, on Jesus Christ, and on the
Holy Spirit. And pray in your hearts: I
believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief. Who
among us adults would not and should not
pray the same with you?
Confirmation is a serious day. But truly,
you know that it is still easy enough to
confess one’s faith in the church, in the
fellowship of Christians, your parents,
siblings, and godparents, in the
undisturbed celebration of a worship
Let us be thankful that God grants us
this hour of common confessing in the
church. But all of this will only become
utterly serious, utterly real after
confirmation, when daily life returns, our
daily life will all its decisions. Then it
will become evident whether even this day
Faith is the
bread that God gives us
You do not have your faith once and for
all. The faith that you will confess today
with all your hearts needs to be regained
tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,
indeed, every day anew. We receive from
God only as much faith as we need for the
present day. Faith is the daily
bread that God gives us.
You know the story about manna. This is
what the children of Israel received daily
in the desert. But when they wanted to
store it for the next day, it was rotten.
This is how it is with all the gifts of
God. This is how it is with faith as well.
Either we receive it daily anew or it
rots. One day is just long enough to
preserve the faith. Every morning it is a
new struggle to fight through all
unbelief, faintheartedness, lack of
clarity and confusion, anxiety and
uncertainty, in order to arrive at faith
and to wrest it from God. Every morning in
your life the same prayer will be
necessary. I believe, dear Lord, help my
“I believe.” Today, when the Christian
congregation acknowledges you as
autonomous members of the church, it
expects that you begin to understand that
your faith must be your very own
individual decision. The “we believe” must
now grow more and more into an “I
We must serve
Faith is a decision. We cannot
avoid that. “You cannot serve two
masters”; from now on either you serve God
alone or you do not serve God at all. Now
you only have one
Lord, who is the Lord of the world, who is
the Savior of the world, who is the one
who creates the world anew.
To serve him is your highest honor. But
to this Yes to God belongs an equally
clear No. Your Yes to God demands your No
to all injustice, to all evil, to all
lies, to all oppression and violation of
the weak and poor, to all godlessness and
mocking of the Holy.
Our Yes to
God demands a brave No as well
Your Yes to God demands a brave No to
everything that will ever hinder you from
serving God alone, whether it be your
profession, your property, your house,
your honor before the world. Faith means
But your very own decision! No
person can relieve you of it. It must
arise from loneliness, from the solitude
of the heart with God. It will be born out
of the hot struggles against the enemy in
your own bosom.
You are still surrounded by a
church-community, by homes that carry you,
by parents who pray for you, by people who
help you wherever they can. Thanks be to
God for this! But God will lead you more
and more into loneliness. He wants to
prepare you for the great hours and
decisions of your life when no human being
can stand by your side and when only one
thing is true: I believe, yes, I myself, I
cannot do otherwise; dear Lord, help my
Scripture and prayer
Dear confirmation pupils, the church
therefore expects of you that you will come
of age in your dealings with the word of God
and in prayer. Your faith today is a
beginning, not a conclusion. First, you must
dive into Scripture and into prayer, you
alone, and you must learn to fight with the
weapon of the word of God wherever it is
Christian fellowship is one of the greatest
gifts that God gives us. But God can
also take this fist away from us as it
pleases God, as he has done already to many
of our brethren today. Then we will stand
and fall with our very own faith.
Someday, however, each and every one of us
will be placed in this solitude even if he
has evaded it throughout life, namely, in
the hour of death and the Last Judgment.
Then God will not ask you, have your parents
believed, but: have you
believed? May God grant that in the
loneliest hour of our life we can still
pray: I believe, dear Lord, help my
unbelief. Then we shall be blessed.
Learn to say
“I believe, dear
Lord…” In life, it is not always
easy to say, “Dear Lord.” But faith must
learn this. Who would not wish sometimes
to say: I believe, harsh Lord, severe
Lord, terrible Lord. I submit to you. I
will be silent and obey. But to learn to
say “dear Lord” is a new and difficult
struggle. And yet we will have found God,
the father of Jesus Christ, only when we
have learned to speak that way.
Your faith will be led into difficult
temptations. Jesus Christ was tempted as
well, more than all of us. At first,
temptations will come to you not to obey
God’s commandments any longer. They will
assault you with great force.
Satan, Lucifer, the bearer of light will
come to you, handsome and alluring,
innocent and with the appearance of light.
He will obscure God’s law and call it into
doubt. He will want to rob you of the joy
you will have in God’s path.
And once the evil one has caused us to
waiver, he will tear our entire faith out
of our hearts, will trample it underfoot
and cast it away. Those will be difficult
hours in your life, when you tend to
become weary of God’s word, when all is in
revolt, when no prayer passes your lips
anymore, when the heart refuses to listen
tests and strengthen us
As certain as your faith is alive, all of
this must happen. It must happen so that
your faith is tested and strengthened, so
that you will be able to cope with
increasing tasks and struggles God works
on us through these temptations. He never
plays a game with you, you can be
confident of that, but the father wants to
make fast the heart of his children.
That is the reason why all of this will
come over you. And even if the temptation
is very confusion, if our resistance
threatens utter collapse, indeed, even if
defeat has already arrived, then we may
and should cry out with the final remnant
of our faith: I believe, dear Lord, help
my unbelief. Dear Lord, it is after all
the Father who tests us and strengthens us
in such a way.
Dear Lord, it is after all Jesus Christ
who has suffered all temptations like us,
yet without sin, to be an example and a
help for us. Dear Lord, it is after all
the Holy Spirit who wants to sanctify us
in this struggle.
Your faith will be tested through sorrow.
You do not yet know much about this. But
God sends sorrow to his children when they
need it the most, when they become too
overly sure on this earth. Then a great
pain, a difficult renunciation, a great
loss, sickness, death, enters our life.
Our unbelief rears up. Why does God demand
this of me? Why has God allowed this to
happen? Why, yes, why? That is the great
question of unbelief that wants to
suffocate our faith. No one can avoid this
calamity. Everything is so enigmatic, so
In this hour of being forsaken by God, we
may and shall say: I believe, dear
Lord, help my unbelief. Yes, dear Lord,
also in the dark, also when in doubt, also
in the state of being forsaken by God.
Dear Lord, you still are my dear father
who makes all things serve my benefit.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, you yourself have
cried out: My God, why have you forsaken
me? You wanted to be where I am. Now you
are with me. Now I know that you don’t
leave me even in the hour of my need. I
believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief.
good fight of faith as
a soldier of Christ
Your faith will bring you not only
temptation and suffering but, above all,
struggle. Today’s confirmation pupils are
like young soldiers who march into war,
into the war of Jesus Christ against all
the gods of this world.
This war demands engagement of the entire
life. Should our Lord God not be worthy of
this engagement? The struggle is already
being fought, and you shall now join in.
Idolatry and fear of human beings confront
us everywhere. But do not think that great
words here can accomplish anything.
enemy is within us -
It is a struggle with fear and trembling,
for the hardest enemy stands not opposite
us but within ourselves. You shall know
that precisely those who stood and still
stand in the middle of this struggle have
most deeply experienced this: I believe,
dear Lord (yes, dear Lord!), help my unbelief.
And if we, despite all temptation, do
not flee but stand and fight, then this is
not due to our strong faith and courage in
battle, our valor, but rather it is the
sole fact that we cannot flee anymore
because God holds on to us so that we can
no longer disengage from him. God leads
the struggle within us and against us and
created a sanctuary of peace for us
“Help my unbelief.” God answers our
prayers. Amid temptation, suffering, and
struggle, he has created a sanctuary of
peace. This is his Holy Eucharist. Here
there is forgiveness of sins; here is the
conquest of death; here are victory and
peace. It is not we who have won it. God
himself has done it through Jesus Christ.
Righteousness is his; life is his; peace
We exist in unrest, but rest is with God.
We exist in strife, but victory is with
God. You are called to the Lord’s Supper.
Come and receive in faith forgiveness,
life, and peace. Ultimately, only this
remains for you in the world: God’s word
and sacrament. Amen.
Sermon preached on
April 9, 1938. Text quoted from
Education Underground: 1937-1940
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works). Ed.
Victoria J. Barnett. Trans. Victoria J.
Barnett, Claudia D. Bergmann, Peter
Frick, and Scott A. Moore. Vol. 15.
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. Print.
was a German Lutheran pastor and a
founding member of the Confessing
Church. He was the first of the
German theologians to speak out
against the persecution of the Jews
and the evils of the Nazi ideology.
In spring of 1935 Deitrich
Bonhoeffer was called by the
in Germany to take charge of an
“illegal,” underground seminary at
Germany (now Poland). He served as
pastor, administrator, and teacher
until the seminary was closed down
by Hitler's Gestapo in
seminary at Finkenwalde Bonhoeffer
taught the importance of shared
life together as disciples of
Christ. He was convinced that the
of the church would depend upon
recovering the biblical
the communal practices of Christian
obedience and shared life. This is
where true formation of discipleship
could best flourish and mature.
teaching led to the formation of a
community house for the seminarians
to help them enter into and learn
the practical disciplines of the
faith in community.
1937 Bonhoeffer completed two books,
and The Cost of Discipleship.
They were first published in German
in 1939. Both books encompass
what it means to live as a Christian
community in the body of Christ.
was arrested by the Nazi Gestapo in
April 1943. On April 8, 1945 he was
by the Gestapo as a traitor in the
Flossenburg concentration camp. As
left his cell on his way to
execution he said to his companion,
the end – but for me, the beginning