Thursday, May 18, 2017

Talk to Young People (Even if you don't want to)!

Emma who is a sixteen year old from our congregation shared this story.
This is not my personal story, but one I witnessed. About 6 months ago, I was with my grandfather picking up garbage along a road. We stopped to take a break and went into the woods. We walked into the woods, and found a small box. It had a small notebook in it. I opened up the notebook to write our names and the date we found the box, when I saw someone had written a story.
It was dated from 2013. This person was going through problems, and had gone to the woods to pray in silence, and had found the box. This person wrote their life story in the log. Many things had gone wrong. They wrote about their time in Afghanistan, and how they were struggling with homelessness.
This person was desperate and prayed for help. He came to the woods to find peace and quiet. On the next date in the log, 2015, the person had come back. He wrote how God had answered his prayers and he had found a steady job and home. I found this man’s story inspiring, and it deepened my personal faith.

What I liked about Emma’s story is that it shows how our young people are searching for meaning.
They want to know that their lives matter, that they matter.
Some of you may have seen the article in the paper about the event I have been helping to organize around the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why.
The show is traumatic.
I don’t recommend it.
But it is also contains some truth, and has some things we can learn from.
There was this one scene that really hit home for me.
It was a scene when the two main characters in the show where at a party talking about how the adults in their lives didn’t see them.
One of the characters says, “My parents don’t see me. Even when they do look at me they don’t see me.”
The show for all of its faults gives I think an accurate depiction of how our young people are feeling.
Maybe this is how we all felt as young people.
Misunderstood, but worse than that we feel invisible.
They feel like they don’t matter.
Their feelings don’t matter.
How they think doesn’t matter.

This is surprising to me in many ways.
Mainly because from what you hear our kids are being overly protected.
On Facebook every few days someone posts a meme that says something like, “When I was a kid we didn’t need bike helmets, or seat belts, my parents smoked, they spanked us, we would fall out of trees…etc.”
The message is that it parents are too protective of our children now a days, and we are raising a bunch of wimps.
If that is true I don’t think our children feel that we are paying close enough attention to what is going on inside.
In the show the adults are under responsive to what is happening around them.
They are too caught up in their own lives to realize that the kids are in pain.

The other thing that stood out about the show (and I can say this to all of us because it matters to us) is that not one of the young people on that show went to church.
I think that matters, because here is a place that listens to the voices of our young people.
At least I hope we do.
I hope we take them seriously.
I hope we look at them for who they truly are.
I hope we surround them with a community that cares about who they are.
A community that tells them in subtle and not so subtle ways that they matter, that they are important.
They are important to us, and to God.

I know that if you are an adult here this morning you have your own problems.
I know that it is not easy getting to be more mature.
But I want to ask you all a favor.
No, I want to beg you to do something.
Care about our young people.
Show them you care.
Talk to them every Sunday.
Ask them how they are doing.
Ask them about school, sports, the arts.
Ask them what they think about Church, about the world, about life.
Ask them what kind of music they like, what kind of movies they see, what television they like.
Let me warn you in advance they might not seem to care.
They will roll their eyes at you, or maybe blow you off.
(I can say this because I have a pre-teen of my own, and she often does that to me.)
Do it anyway.

A year or so ago at the dinner table I was asking my kids about their day.
They said, “It was fine”.
I said, “That is not good enough. Tell me more. What did you do? Who did you talk to? What happened?”
My daughter Phoebe then said, “How often are you going to ask us these questions.”
For the rest of your life!
Every day I want to know more about your life, because I care about you.

If you are an adult here this morning I am asking you to care about the young people in our church.
Because, you have (I presume) grown into your salvation.
You in your life have tasted that the Lord is good!
You have a gift to share with a young person.
You have wisdom to offer, a story to share, a witness to give.
The person in Emma’s story learned about God’s grace, and wrote it down to share with someone.
It deepened her faith.
He didn’t know that his story would have an effect on a person.
We can do the same thing with all of our young people.
We can share the gift of our faith with them.
We can let them know that their lives matter, that they matter, and that we care.

By telling them this we pass on the good news of Jesus Christ that we received.
We help them grow into that very powerful truth.
We let them know that God has a purpose for their lives.
That God loves them, and is always there for them.
That God has written a letter and left it in a box to be discovered, a letter of God’s grace that can give them peace and quiet all the days of their lives.

May all of us proclaim to our young people the mighty acts of God so that we all may live in God’s marvelous light.

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