Yesterday I gave the most priestly offering I will give during this Lenten season and it did not happen in worship service, or a church fellowship, or even with my own church membership; it happened with a group of students who asked if they could meet in our building Sunday afternoon for a few hours to organize Austin’s March for Our Lives rally this Saturday.
I opened the doors to the students, and then as a church …
- We provided them space to organize; we did not organize them.
- We allowed them to speak out; we did not ask them to speak up.
- We let them lead and we followed.
- We gave them affirmation and encouragement for doing the work we should have done long ago; we thanked them for picking up what we dropped.
- We blessed their work and told them we would be marching behind them this coming Saturday.
… and we were amazed at their courage and their leadership.
We smiled because, for the first time in a long time, we felt hopeful about our future.
Church, this is how we will keep the next generation in our community: by providing them space to lead us, and join them in the revolution of peace they are working so hard to usher in to our world.
If we want to lose this generation, we will be silent, we will try to lead them in a protest that makes us feel better and mutes the real issue, we will refuse to join, and we will utter things like “this is too political” or “what good does a protest really do?”
And by doing so, we will lose another generation, and take one huge step down the road that leads to hospice.
Last weekend the New York Times Magazine published their list of the 25 songs that tell us where music is going now. In the introduction, Nitsuh Abebe wrote the following: “Keep scanning along the birth chart, and it will emerge that the highest number of births in American history seems to have come around 2007. If you want to know where music is going, ask an 11-year old.”
Maybe that’s a gospel lesson we need to hear again today: Keep scanning along the birth chart and see that the highest number of births in American history is around 2007, so if you want to know where the American church is going, ask an 11-year-old.
That does seem quite like the gospel these days when we reflect on Jesus’ calling of the disciples — all young men, all teenagers and youth. It was as if God incarnate knew that if you wanted something big to happen in our world, you started with the young people. This is evident all around us. Every great revival was started by youth. They change entertainment and art according to what they watch and listen to, they change fashion according to what they buy, they change technology. Even Paul seems to agree here: Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example. It’s not often that Paul and the New York Times agree.
This week I hope you and your church will find a way to participate in the March for Our Lives events that will be happening around our country by marching behind our students, standing along the route with signs urging them forward, passing out cold water, reaching out to the students you know and affirming them and offering them words of gratitude, and listening to their voices and joining their call.
Because, Church, in a world that is so divisive, surely we can all agree that we want our children to stop being killed in their schools, and surely we can join them on a road we should have already paved for them.
Because Palm Sunday is this Sunday, and it’s the day we celebrate that a bunch of young people went first and led Jesus into Jerusalem.
I think the same thing is happening this week, and I plan on marching with these disciples.