September 26, 2004

Sermon: Church of the Redeemer, Bethesda, MD

September 26, 2004
Proper 21, Year C

So, what did you think of the lessons today? They don’t particularly beat around the bush do they? There’s not a whole lot of wondering what they mean, no matter what generation of God’s people are hearing them. Quite clearly, these passages convey a hard message about stewardship. Yes, the other “S” word.

Now wait, relax! I’m not going to talk about money this morning. I’m a youth minister. I don’t talk about money. I just know I don’t have any. So let’s hang on to this message of stewardship, put it on a shelf. We’ll come back to it in just a minute.

First: I want to tell you why I’m a youth minister. You know, it’s a question I get asked rather frequently. And I have a simple answer. “Paula, Jack, & Jonathan.” That is why I’m a youth minister. Three people who at three very important periods in my adolescence mentored and guided me, who were willing to listen, brave enough to task tough questions, and loved my awkward-self with no strings attached. They gave of themselves to the young people of our parish asking very little in return.
When I was in high school, I had a lot of questions, especially about this Jesus character. I spent hours and hours with Jonathan asking him questions about how Jesus could be full human and fully divine. At 16, it just didn’t make sense. Finally, during one of our conversations, I said, “Jonathan, I just need to know that Jesus knew what it was like to be 16.”
“Yeah,” Jonathan said, “Jesus did know what it was like. And still does. He probably didn’t always get along with his parents, had friends who changed, had a girlfriend. All that stuff.”

Suddenly Jesus made sense, and I could allow my relationship with Him to grow. All because someone took the time to listen to my questions and help me sort out the answers.

There’s another reason I’m a youth minister. The communities that developed under Paula’s, Jack’s and Jonathan’s direction provided my peers and I the opportunities to laugh & cry, to celebrate & mourn, to doubt & to believe. The funny thing is, of the 15 or 20 different people I was in youth groups with, most of us are still a part of the church. Some of us actually work for the church, but almost all of us are still connected to Christ and to the church.

Paula, Jack & Jonathan took seriously the promise made at every Baptism. It’s right there on page 303 in the Book of Common Prayer: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” And we answer, “We will.” We don’t say, “He will,” or “she will” or “somebody will.” WE will. The answer is as clear as today’s Gospel message.
Speaking of today’s Gospel message, let’s take that whole stewardship thing off the shelf we put it on a few minutes ago. All of the lessons this morning are about what we do with what we’ve been given. Stewardship.

God has blessed Church of the Redeemer with some amazing young people. And God has blessed Redeemer with some bright and talented adults, too. You’ve been given a lot of gifts. What are you going to do with those gifts?

Young people need adults in their lives who aren’t their parents, fellow Christians who have had doubts, found faith, seen miracles. Adults who will be wild-crazy about them. Adults who will listen to their stories, listen to their hopes & fears, highs & lows. Adults who will listen without prejudice, without thinking that it’s the same as it was when they were 15 or 16. Because it’s not. A 15-year old today faces a far different world than I faced when I was 15 and an even different world that someone who was 15 thirty years ago. Young people need adults in their life who recognize their prophetic voice, who value the honesty and truth with which they speak.
Yes, adolescents can be scary. They speak a different language; they dress in a style that’s not like any other age demographic. Emotions are like a roller-coaster and most adults don’t understand their music. But that’s OK; you’re not really supposed to understand their music. That’s what makes it “their music.”

But young people are a gift. They are a resource that cannot be replaced. They have a well of wisdom and knowledge that is waiting to be tapped. Stewardship is about sharing the gifts God has given you. It’s also about how you grow from the gifts other people share with you. I’ve worked with thousands of young people over the past 10 years, and I’m certain that I’ve learned more from them than they could have collectively learned from me.

Stewardship is what we do with what we’ve been given and how we do that in a community of faith. As St. Paul said to St. Timothy, “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future.”