From Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation - in the Explanation part (The explanation section in the back was written at a later date, not by Luther) (2005).
306. What is confirmation?
Confirmation is a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.
note: Prior to admission to the Lord's Supper, it is necessary to be instructed in the Christian faith. The rite of confirmation provides an opportunity for the individual Christian, relying on God's promise given in Holy Baptism, to make a personal public confession of the faith and a lifelong pledge of fidelity to Christ.
I can respect this description, because it allows for a lot of room. There are more and more churches that are changing how they do Confirmation and First Communion, and although most require a certain amount of knowledge to go to the table, nowhere in the Book of Concord does it say that it has to be so extensive as what two years of confirmation classes is supposed to provide....so the two can be separated (Confirmation as we know it, has NOT always been around in Lutheran circles). It also shies away from the pietistical error that Confirmation is where the child renews his baptismal promise that was made for him by his parents and sponsors. Since God is the one who upholds that promise, it doesn't need to be renewed.
This is what catches my attention:
304 May those who are weak in faith come to the Lord's Table?
Yes, for Christ instituted the Sacrament for the very purpose of strengthening and increasing our faith.
In fact, the Formula of Concord puts it like this:
True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
If the rite of Confirmation as defined here, "a lifelong pledge of fidelity," is required before someone goes to the Sacrament, then what we are in effect saying is that a person must be strong of faith to be able to approach the table in the first place. If the oath is required at some point in time, the purpose of Communion is to strengthen their faith so that they can make the oath. Not that they must make the oath in order to partake.
Whenever this discussion comes up, it of course has to come to I Corinthians 11:27-29. "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself." ...and rightfully so. This is a serious condemnation. But it is used to justify waiting 11-12 years and then for two years of instruction in every aspect of our theology. What does "an unworthy manner" really mean?
According to the Confessions, and according to Luther himself, being worthy means they must have faith. Plain and simple. Those who have faith are worthy. Those who do not, are unworthy and are taking the Sacrament to their detriment.
#8 We believe, teach, and confess that there is only one kind of unworthy guest, namely, those who do not believe. Of such it is written, “He who does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18) The unworthy use of the holy sacrament increases, magnifies, and aggravates this condemnation (I Cor. 11:27, 29) (The Formula of Concord - Epitome, The Holy Supper of Christ, Affirmative Theses).
" Now follows: Who are those who lay hold of this benefit? He who believes has baptism and he who does not believe does not have it. Likewise, he who believes that the body, which he receives, is given for him, has the fruit of this sacrament. Therefore, he who believes takes his rightful place at this sacrament.....If you believe, then you take the sacrament on the strength of these words "for you." Luther's Sermons on the Catechism - The Lord's Supper.
It seems to me that we are making all of this too complicated.
“…for thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. So children pray, “I believe in one holy Christian church.” The Smalkald Articles