I’ve been trying to attend our men’s bible study at noon, when my schedule allows it. Today, we were in Daniel 5 about the hand writing on the wall. The principles to live by were good diving into some of Paul’s teaching, which is when I got this revelation…that part of the Christian community that gets offend at Christmas about things not Christian, are trying their on version of behavior modification. This is something that I’ve had to fight in youth ministry for a long time.
Parents want their teens to be good, and if their good kid meets up with a kid that they think is disruptive, or disrespectful, then I’ve had parents wanting to kick that kid out of youth group. What they are looking for is behavior modification, and not the transformational love that God has us give. Part of this comes from Pastor Bernie Bloukamp’s message at our church this past Sunday.
So when I see something in the news calling for some boycott, I realize that they want the change to come through cultural modification, and not through the transformative love, that God commands us Christians to do. Do it through coercion and not loving your enemy.
Here’s a company that is using red cups with nothing on them for the holidays (or holy days if you like), and people think they aren’t christian enough. Newsflash. It is a corporation with a board of directors whose goal is only to make money. If they decide that they can make more money by being generic, then that’s their prerogative. You only feed them more money, but complaining and giving them free advertising.
The better thing to do is show the people in the corporation love, and maybe they will come to know Christ, and in turn influence the corporation that it should show more selfless love. Maybe they will always keep their red cups, and then again, maybe not.
Hopefully, some will see this and read it. This has been an eventful last few days. It started off last week. Mary and I had a wonderful vacation in Phoenix with my parents and my sister’s family. Relaxing, fun, good family time. Then a few hours after my sister and her family had departed, my Uncle Dave called my dad, and told him that my eldest cousin’s daughter had passed away in her sleep at 27.
While the Lutz family is pretty big, we have all managed to stay in touch over the years. We have been watching each others kids grow up and I have gotten to know a few of them. Meredith was one. I can remember her a youngster with her brother and sister at the UM Church that served as our Thanksgiving Day meet up for most of the Lutzes. The one thing I really remember was talking to her when she was in high school, I believe it was at her grandmother’s funeral, my Aunt Tillie, most of the cousins where there then too. We had a conversation about what her youth group was doing, and I about how I was helping to lead one here in Gaylord. So when I heard she had joined Mission Year after graduating, and she had a blog for her year, I followed and commented. Her mom appreciated that I had gotten in touch with her to show support while she was there.
Since then we have kept in touch via Facebook. I was hoping that we could meet up with her during our ill-fated cruise, since it was ported out of NOLA, where she lived. However, with the cruise being cancelled and not having the money to stay in NOLA, it wasn’t going to work. So I apologized to her, and we went home. That was January, and here we are in March.
Then, this week as I prepared my lesson for youth group, my mind kept going back to a video about Ed Dobson that I saw a couple weeks ago. It is entitled “Grateful.” The series itself is about Ed Dobson’s life as a pastor, and now retired, living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The people at the web site turned this into a Lenten Meditation. That’s what I used tonight. However, as I discovered, this was being grateful through suffering. So we watched the video, and talked about it. Then I shared about Meredith. Meredith was always grateful and graceful to those around her. That is probably why she has as big a family, from her church and friends in NOLA, as she does in the several states that our clan has spread out. I was able to express my grief to the youth group and show them that Jesus is with us in the suffering.
Before this last week, I wasn’t sure that I would be around for another year in youth ministry. However, after tonight God said yes you will and I am with you even in the suffering. Why such a big turn around? Because, my message hit on something that one of our seniors got home to, a grandparent passing. She called Mary and I, and said how much she appreciated the message, it ministered to her without her knowing about it until the news dropped on her.
So as people and things pass, we do suffer, but Jesus is there with us in the suffering. On of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” It’s the shortest verse in the Bible and speaks volumes when put into the context of the death of his friend Lazarus. So during this Holy Week, when Jesus dies on Good Friday, remember that he is with us in our suffering and promises Resurrection. Or as another pastor put it, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”
I have been making the same observation over the last 5 years or so. So many youth ministries or events have been focused on fear. I’m trying to focus on the things Jesus did, namely loving God and loving your neighbor. It’s not to say that there are things that I don’t fear about or in youth ministry. However, for now, fear doesn’t seem to be driving the ministry.
Since becoming the youth ministry leader with Mary, I have felt that I need to teach about the Old Testament stories, with the emphasis on love. Now, I’m feeling the need to stress more out of Jesus’s teaching on the “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matt. 5-7 or Luke 6). However, it can be frustrating when you don’t have instant changes. It is a slow process, that depends on relationship building with the youth, and for that matter, adults too. After 15 years in youth ministry, I still stumble with this. Just as it seems you are getting somewhere, one of the kids does something that is disappointing.
I realized, while Mary and I were on our vacation, that everything is a journey. That we all carry God’s image. That we all need each other to help raise each other up. However, the observations that God made in Genesis 3 (yeah, it was translated as curses, but that makes it sound like God put them on us. ) shows us how self-centered we are when we reject God’s image in us, and His ways. The internet has brought this out even more, as I read the comment sections on news websites. I read of some tragedy, and then I read the compassionless comments. The ones that are judgmental, like they know the best way to resolve the tragedy and deliver the punishment. Some call it justice, but most often it is revenge filled spite for with no mercy or grace.
I recently read the book of Jonah to the youth group, only I put in local places, and changed things up a bit. Since then, I have read over Jesus saying that the only sign of Jonah (Matt 12:38-41) will be shown to this generation. After reading Jonah, I wonder if we aren’t seeing this. The church in general sometimes gets so into the rules that get legalistic. So when someone preaches about love and grace and mercy, they are shouted down, or even asked if there is a sign that God has given them. The sign of Jonah that Jesus was talking about was about him dying and rising again, but I wonder if we can’t learn something about our generation here.
Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and prophesy to them, because of the wickedness they were doing. He didn’t want to go, so he ran somewhere else. When he finally went where was supposed to go, he did so angry, and even when the Ninevites listened to him, and repented, he still wanted them destroyed. I wonder if this is the sign of Jonah to our generation. God is so full of love that when we reluctantly witness, we have no grace or mercy to really want them to change. Of course, if they do change then we pile all sorts of rules and stuff on them as Jesus says in Matt 23:15, and make them “twice as much the child of hell that we are” (Paraphrased).
So as I went on my rant…my point is that transformation is not instant. There needs to be love, grace, and mercy involved. The justice that is meted out should not be in vengeance, but a justice that corrects in love. This is the tension that I live in…
If you follow this blog or my microblog, you that my life is blur sometimes. Not to mention that I try to keep a weather blog as well. This is what is going on…
So I have a pretty full plate at this point. Pray that the shutdown doesn’t continue and they find some solution. We can get by, but there are others out there, who cannot.
Since I have been preaching to the youth group, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission, and how the Bible keeps pointing back to that, I have been having the thoughts about judgement versus grace. Brian Zahnd has been pointing out that Jesus preached against the “who’s in, and who’s out” thought. Then I ran into this post that John Meunier reblogged a post he wrote a couple of years ago. It was where my thoughts have been turning. The thing is that Paul talks about this in Romans 14.
John’s post is well worth the read. Who Wesley would send to Hell | John Meunier.
I’ve been trying to share my youth messages that I have been doing. Both by sharing the text, and recording an mp3. However, since I’m having trouble affording hosting, probably only text for the time being.
I had a week where I asked the students what questions they have. One question was “Why would God End the World?”
So here’s this week’s message:
That phrase is in the bible from one person’s count, 365 times. As people have told me one for everyday of the year. As I have journeyed through this Lenten season. There have been several things, I feel, that God has been speaking to me on.
I’ve been teaching on what it means to be the church, in the context of love. Which means I’ve be trying to tell them about loving others more than yourself.
There is one thing, though, that through the 46 days of Lent that has been continuing to resound louder and louder and that is don’t fear. The kids in the youth group are constantly bombarded by fear based things. We wonder why we end up in a culture that tries to medicate kids and teens, when they are just being kids.
So my next quest is to figure out how to communicate how to not fear, and love others to the point that others may hate you.
Here is what I taught tonight to the youth group.