In case you don’t know it or have forgotten it, young people are amazing! To be in the company of 3000 youth from all over the country is a gift I did not anticipate. Here in Orlando at the National Youth Event (NYE) of the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ, I am with people who already know how to be the church. These kids are filled with passion and pain, hope and despair, faith and doubt. They are here in the Florida heat and they fill me with hope.
I have served the church in one way or another for more than 30 years. I do this because I know the life-giving power of the body of Christ. NYE has reminded me of this power and this responsibility.
It has been my privilege to co-lead a workshop on the issues of suicidality and self-harm from a theological perspective. Telling groups of youth that they are each a temple of the Holy Spirit, and watching them reflect on that possibility, brings tears to my eyes. This is church at its best. This is a reminder that wherever the church is heading it is in excellent hands.
Too much of church time is spent trying to figure out how to balance the budget, attract more people to the pews, and raise money for capital repairs. These things are the equivalent of building bigger barns to fill with grain that we’ll never be able to use. People – young and not-so-young – need to experience God’s message of hope in a community of love. If we spend more time delivering the Gospel, embodying Christ, we’d have less worry about buildings and budgets.
The passage from Hosea is beautiful and filled with images of nurture and promise. If we look at Ephraim learning to walk under God’s watchful presence as a metaphor for church, then we can see where our steps falter. We learned to walk the way of love by following Jesus. In the past, the church was strong and sure. Over time, we have walked far from God with rules and traditions and exclusionary practices. Like Ephraim we have been scattered and held captive by a stronger, dominant culture.
However, the people are being regathered, as promised. When 3000 youth gather for worship and sing songs of faith and claim their place in the body of Christ, the present is transformed and the future fills with hope. May those of us clinging to an outdated understanding of church have the grace to make way for the church that is here and the one that is coming.
Youth need the love of God in Christ now as much as ever before. The only way they can experience Christ’s love and claim their place at the table is if you and I love them without condition. Let’s stop building barns to hold yesterday’s grain and start building relationships to save lives.
If you are seeking more sermon starter or lectionary commentary for this week, see also my RevGalBlogPals contributor’s post here.
RCL – Year C – Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 31, 2016
Hosea 11: 1-11
Psalm 107: 1-9, 43
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
Psalm 49: 1-12
Luke 12: 13-21