Two Messages on Youth Sunday
Two Sermons, delivered by Alexis Barnes and Pastor Lynn, at the White Plains Presbyterian Church on Youth Sunday, February 19, 2017
SERMON BY ALEXIS BARNES
Good morning. Along with my pastor’s greeting I would like to offer my own. Today is Youth Sunday and as a member of the youth group I am so happy to represent the youth during today’s sermon.
My name is Alexis Barnes and this place has been my church home since my baptism 16 years ago. I learned to listen and follow the Word of God from my nursery school days to my Confirmation of faith up until today. I was born into a decade where the ways to communicate with each other exploded exponentially. You can now access your bible on your cell phone, tablet or laptop, even with a device on your wrist. With so many ways to worship, do we actually worship and follow God? Are we linked into Him, do we call Him? You may call him Jehovah, Yahweh, the Messiah, Him, The Great I Am, but the most important thing to do is CALL HIM!
I live in a generation of social media and mass communication. The urban dictionary definition of social media is your electronic second life. I don’t believe that. I believe that social media can be positive and negative, but it’s main purpose is to spread and provide information. In biblical times, information and news was spread by word of mouth. In our day and age, information is spread in a multitude of ways, by phone, social media, email, texting. You can even tweet your ideas and thoughts, including the word of God. With our technology, God’s Word can be sent across the world in a matter of minutes. Mass media is also used by activists for social causes.
One social movement’s information that is often spread through social media is Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter has been circulating around social media for the past four years or so. The positive side of social media would be updating fellow users about marches, activities, and recent cases. The negative side is the comments: The people who believe certain lives don’t matter and feel the need to angrily voice it to the rest of the world. But hey, that’s just freedom of speech. And that leads me to another thing about social media. It’s an outlet for self-expression. Music, art, makeup, and even acting is showcased on numerous types of social media. This is where people can be discovered and recognized for the amazing work they do which would have otherwise gone unseen to the public.
I wonder how God views the way we have learned to talk to one another or, better yet, not TALK to each other but instead send a text or email to someone in the next room, or sometimes in the same room with you. Have you been out lately and watched how friends and family sit in a social setting or restaurant and everyone is on the device connecting to someone who is not in their space but disconnected from the person in their SPACE.
More technology and ways to communicate should not disconnect us but re-connect the folks that are separated by distance.
How connected are YOU to your family, to our GOD, to your FRIENDS?
My message to you, is to use the tools to connect to your soul, your family your friends but most importantly to connect to the Alpha and Omega, our God. He doesn’t care how many likes you have, or how many friends, or how many devices you have, he simply wants you to follow him. Can you do that, simply follow him? May it be so!
A MESSAGE OF THE YOUTH
The Reverend Lynn Dunn
My message for the youth of our congregation today, and to everyone else, is this: DO NOT BE MEEK!
Last week, I had a conversation with my brother. We were commiserating over the state of the world. He said to me, “I thought the meek were supposed to inherit the earth.”
I said, I think you’ve got the wrong version! That statement, of course, is from the Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospel of Matthew. This beginning is the section we call the Beatitudes– you know, those “blessed are” statements: Blessed are the meek, the poor, the persecuted, those who mourn.
But Jesus is NOT telling us to BE meek. In Matthew’s version, Jesus is quoting from Psalm 37– from what we call the Old Testament– “The meek shall inherit the land” (Ps. 37:11). Jesus is exhorting all to live according to God’s way, to ACT in ways that are right and just. If all of God’s people follow the commandments and these ethical teachings, then all these blessings will come to be. It is a group effort, and, sadly, we fail.
Jesus has called us into a new kind of kingdom, but Jesus in not telling us to be meek! That is the worst possible interpretation of this passage. Certainly it has been preached that way sometimes, but isn’t it funny that the people who preach it that way are the very ones who benefit from other people’s meekness?
During this year’s season after Epiphany, the lectionary readings include the New Testament passages from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. A few weeks ago Rev. Sarah Henkel preached on the Beatitudes, and I agree with everything she said: In the Kingdom of God, the poor, the dispossessed, the persecuted, and those who mourn will be “greatly honored.”
But there is another way to interpret Jesus’ teachings about these blessings in the Kingdom of God. You could say that Jesus is enacting a reaffirmation of the covenant, just as Moses did with the motley group of refugees he led out of Egypt, and as Joshua did with their descendants, and others in the biblical narrative also did.
A “covenant” in the Bible is the ancient tradition of calling blessings upon those who keep the covenant and woes upon those who break it. A covenant in ancient times was not a contract between equals, but an agreement between one with power and those with little power. A king might offer protection to those who would covenant to be loyal to that king.
Now, God’s covenant with the people initiated a new kind of kingdom. “The meek shall inherit the land,” (Psalm 37) can only happen if all keep this covenant, which means living according to its ethical requirements, the ethical direction to love God and neighbor, including to love the alien who dwells among you (see Leviticus 19:33-34). It’s a group effort to bring in this new kind of kingdom, this new creation, and unfortunately we as a whole people of God, fail.
Jesus has called you to follow him, but Jesus has NOT called you to be meek. Jesus has called you to be bold: To be salt and light, in a world that is both spoiled and dark. Jesus has called you to follow him in a world that needs you to stand up for truth and justice.
Jesus has not called you to be meek!
Jesus has made this covenant with us all: If we are faithful to the ways of living that Jesus has taught us, then together we will be the new creation that this world needs.
But to do that, you must be strong in your commitment to the truth, to what is right, to what is fair, and to what is just.
Do not be meek, because the world needs people of faith to stand up boldly for what is right!
Do not be meek when you are standing up for the truth in a world that feeds on lies!
Do not be meek when you are fighting against racism and white supremacy!
Do not be meek when you are standing up for the poor, for immigrants, for refugees, and for those who don’t seem to have just the right papers!
Be bold as you live everything that Jesus taught! For that is what it means to choose life, as Moses said, or as Jesus said, to have life abundantly.
To the glory of God!