We live in a world of sin and imperfection. I am a child of God striving each day to live out my calling. Welcome to my blog where you get the inside scoop of this Child of God's life!
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12

Monday, August 18, 2014

Let the Children Come - Sermon 8/17/14

Sermon Scripture Mark 10:13-16

As a youth pastor I often feel that I spend my time working in my office surrounded by spreadsheets, books, and to do lists that only get longer as the day goes on. As with any other job there are many days that are overwhelming beyond words and other days so quiet and calm, I am left with only my thoughts to fill the void. The youth when they finally realize this is my full time job, ask what do you do all day? I laugh because there are times I want to answer, what do I not do?
Sometimes I sit overwhelmed by the six meetings I have in one week that have nothing to do with the youth. I just got another phone call that someone can’t make it Wednesday night and everything seems to be falling apart. Then one of the kids walks in my office door and plops down on my couch to tell me how horrible their day at school was and how mom and dad are fighting again, or grandpa is dying of cancer and they don’t know how to handle that on top of studying for that Algebra test on Friday. Even though my chaotic world seemed more than I could handle, in that moment, in that instance my storm stops all I can see is this child. This beautiful child of God trying to figure out how to stay afloat in this crazy life. These are the moments that I hate being interrupted, these are the moments, when the phone can just ring, emails can stay unopened and the chaos it can just be. These are the moments I live for.

I can’t help but wonder if this is where Jesus was at in his ministry in our scripture this morning. Maybe he was a little overwhelmed with the weight of the world, and delivering a message no one understood. Maybe his disciples were really good at perceiving his body language and they knew when he was exhausted and needed a break and this is why they tried to stop the children from coming to see Jesus. And Jesus became upset that they would prevent these little ones from him. Children are of the utmost importance, because it is like children we are to receive the kingdom of Heaven.
I grew up in the church, there has never been a time in my life where church was not part of my story. I can still tell you where everyone sat in church on Sunday morning, and if you were at St. Paul UMC in Arkansas City, KS this morning those that are still alive were most likely still in their seat. As a child nothing made me feel more important than when the “old” people in the church talked to me, knew what I was interested in and what was important to me, and when someone from church would show up at one of my performances or something I was doing, man that was the best. We had Secret Prayer Partners when I was younger and mine was the coolest. I don’t think it ever really clicked that we filled out an information sheet because I thought it was amazing that Mary Jane knew that I collected Trolls. And every year after we were matched she got me one for Christmas. She didn’t have to, we were only matched for a short time, but she did. She noticed me, she made feel special, she took time to know who I was as a silly little girl.

In college, I went to Cowley for theatre, it wasn’t my major but it was my scholarship. I became more devoted to that place and that program as I have ever been devoted to something other than God. I lived and breathed those costumes, I spent countless hours organizing, creating, and just being in that theatre. As I look back over those two years, I have realized as my passion for Performing Arts has dwindled it was never the art that fuelled my soul. There was one man who went out of his way to make sure I knew that I was important and special. No matter what was going on he had time for me, my life, my drama, and whatever I needed from him. We became more than teacher and student, we became friends over our conversations about God and praying for each show. This man did not have to know me on a personal level. He did not have to talk to me about anything but theatre. He did not have to care. And when Scott passed away last summer, that theatre was filled with students and colleagues saying the same thing. He cared, even when he didn’t have to.  Even three years after graduating and not being his student anymore, he was one of the first people I called when I got this job, and he still cared. I was in his program for two years and he cared, he would answer my emails, my phone calls, whatever it was that I needed at anytime. Scott had a couple of sayings that we lived by in theatre and for many of us became mantras we often remembered and mottos now that he is gone.

“This moment right here, “snap” is gone forever.” And “This is a marathon not a sprint.” In life we often want to hurry through to fix and finish whatever we have going on. We rush and rush through life trying to reach our deadlines and solve our problems. This rushed mentality is what stresses us out, makes us feel overwhelmed, and drives us crazy. But these moments that we live through will never exist again, our time on this earth is precious. God put us here for a reason. He put us here to have relationship with him, and to bring others into this same relationship.

This congregation, this church has been blessed with some of the most amazing students I have ever seen. From our little ones the coo and giggle through the service all the way to the ones that have left to go to college. There are some amazing kids here. On average last year we had around 60 students ranging from 4 years old to 16 years old in our programs. These students are passionate, talented, and active in everything they set their minds to. Those of you that help on Wednesday nights have had the pleasure of meeting some of these kids and I hope you see them as the blessings that I do. But since most of you don’t see what they are up to I’m going to share a little with you.

Last summer one our high school girl’s lost her little brother to cancer. Now this brother didn’t live in town and most of the kids had never met him. But the high school youth rallied around her and showed their support by creating a memory frame for her, and a group of them went with me to the funeral in support of their friend in pain.

We have a high school student who in the midst of practice and school work not only sits on our Church council, but runs our youth council, is co-president of our Conference Council on Youth Ministry, devoted 3 weeks of his summer as a volunteer down at camp, and runs our sound system most Sunday mornings and that is only the surface of his dedication.

We have middle school students so passionate about missions that they go each week and make a difference somewhere. From filling food sacks for students to shopping for Christmas presents for kids they don’t know.

Each week I amazed at what the elementary students remember from the week before during BibleZone. It always feels like they aren’t paying attention, but they can tell you what they learned, and they might know more memory verses currently than I do, and I mean, they think Pastor Keith is a rock star!

Our high school youth council meets once a month and plans events and activities for the youth group to do. Last year a group of five high school boys decided our theme for the year should be compassion and we should do more mission stuff. And last year they raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project and a little girl with cancer named Diamond. That money was not from a fundraiser or any sort of project, but merely a weekly offering taken from their own pockets.

It is because of their enthusiasm and passion that we start new things, go places, and expand our horizons. These kids are so amazing I am starting to feel selfish because you don’t know them like I do. They text me when a friend is suicidal and they don’t know how to help, not you. They invade my office with stories from their day at school not yours. They blow my mind with their understanding of scripture, not yours. But you see they should be connecting with you. Because you are the church, you are the body of Christ. As Christians we are called to be like Christ, and Christ opened his arms to the children in the midst of his busy schedule and gave them the attention they were seeking. You see it takes a village to raise a child, not a youth pastor. Of those 60 children I bet I have a solid one on one connection with about 10 of them. They don’t all connect with me, nor do I have the time or mental capacity to fully connect with all of them, but you see I can’t, I’m not what all of them need. I truly believe that there is an adult in this church for every single one of our students. I look around this sanctuary every Sunday and dream what it would be like if each of you was personally connected to one of our young people. I dream about what it would be like to have so many volunteers that I never had to say no to an event or idea due to lack of adults. I dream about how loved and special each of our young people would feel if they knew a handful of our church members by name and those same church members were the ones cheering them on at their football games. I dream of a church so invested in their children and youth, that conversations about decorations, hymns vs praise music, and what goes where were not at the top of our meeting lists, but in fact conversations about where the children are headed, where are we going to fit them all, and how can we help them more.

The children are NOT the future of the church. They are the church. They are a vital growing part of this church. And many of you never see them. Imagine what this church could do if we never had to beg for volunteers! Seriously close your eyes, and think about it. If each of you volunteered once a semester we would never have to beg. Jessica, Kris & Derek, Melody, and I should be overwhelmed with the number of volunteers we have rather than being overwhelmed with how much work we have. So my challenge to you today as we prepare for all of our activities to begin in September, I challenge you to honestly pray about how God can use you in our children and youth programs this school year. You can’t be that mentor, that one on one connection, that person that makes that one kid feel like a million bucks, if they have no idea who you are.

These students are only here for awhile, they’re days of adolescence are numbered. They will leave us, they will become adults, they will take your places on committees and planning teams. This moment that we have with them will gone in flash, and we will never get it back. What we do here is just the beginning; new life is starting at every ending. We are a part of a story unfolding. This is the weight of the world we are holding. This could be our day. Are you ready to give yourself away?

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