Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Preach It!



I grew up at a Big Steeple church and I was there from the beginning - my parents were married there, I was baptized there, went to nursery school there, participated in every VBS and Music Camp they ever had there, and was active in all of the youth programs including being the president of the youth group my senior year.

One of the traditions of Big Steeple Church's Youth Group was that on Youth Sunday the seniors preached a sermon. My entire time there no matter how many seniors were active in the youth group, they all were asked if they wanted to preach. Now some passed on the opportunity but everyone was asked. Always.

I was really excited about my sermon (as you can imagine) and having no knowledge of homiletics or the right way to go about it, I would work on it as best I could waiting for some instruction or ideas to be passed my way by the Youth Director or anyone... but I never heard anything.

Finally, after youth group one night I asked our Youth Director who I should start working with on my sermon for Youth Sunday. She was surrounded by a few other of the adult advisors and suddenly they all looked very uncomfortable and she eventually spit out that they had decided that I shouldn't give a sermon.

I remember tears burning my eyes and the lump in my throat as I asked why and although I don't remember her exact words the response was that 'they' had decided considering my personality that it just wasn't a good idea. The gist of it being that I couldn't be trusted with such an important task.

It's not that I was a bad kid, but I did tend to joke around a little too much and whipped around the church with the energy and open mouth of someone who was comfortable where they were. I LOVED church. It is where I felt loved unconditionally and so I often acted as if there was no judgment. Apparantly there was, and this was it.

My friends, crushed is not even the word. I preach just about every Sunday now and I can still feel in the pit of my stomach how that one lost sermon made me feel.

As luck/fate/coincidence would have it when I was in seminary about 10 years later I walked out the doors of the main building and there was my former youth director, now ordained herself and well established in her own ministry. She was on campus for a continuing education event. We greeted one another and sat on the steps and talked for a bit.

Finally, I couldn't resist any longer, and said, "Kind of ironic I just came out of preaching class isn't it?"
To her credit she said, "I'm so sorry. That was one of the dumbest decisions I ever made."

Now I have forgiven her and in her absolute defense she was in her young 20's and we have all made those kinds of inexperienced mistakes. But as you can tell, I haven't forgotten.

This past Sunday at our church I listened as for the second year in a row a senior gave the sermon. This is a tradition I have started. I take them out to a dinner of their choice in January/February and then work with them on their sermon and listen and sweat it out with them on Youth Sunday as they proclaim the Message.

Now there are no seniors next year but the year after that there will be two. One of them stopped me on Sunday afternoon. She is funny and high-spirited and sometimes gets herself into relatively small amounts of trouble due to actions or words that were not as thoroughly thought out as they should have been. But she has never missed a mission trip and she asks challenging questions about our faith and she has the kind of energy that as adults we often wish we have. She said, "I'll bet there is no way you will put me in the pulpit."

To which I firmly responded, "There is no way I won't."

22 comments:

Listing Straight said...

Wow.
Nice.
Amen.

PPB said...

Preach it!

Teri said...

I can't believe they didn't even tell you! How crushing.
Thanks for telling this story. and thanks for putting your youth friend in a place where she can feel she belongs and even can be a conduit for the Word. It means so much...

Songbird said...

I love you, ws.

Lorna (see through faith) said...

I love it that you work WITH Them and sweat with them too

Glad too that the former youth pastor (whatever) admitted her mistake - better too that you've forgiven her. That's the way forward everytime - but forgiving isn't forgetting and the remembering makes you a better person.

JWD said...

I'm so glad you're in a position to allow these voices to be heard.

Quotidian Grace said...

Super post! Thanks so much.

HeyJules said...

I'm still choking down the lump in my throat. I got to give part of a sermon last year and it profoundly affected my faith as I stood up there and said what I felt needed to be said. It is still one of my proudest moments...

cheesehead said...

Beautiful.

more cows than people said...

what a painful memory.

what a beautiful opportunity for reconciliation.

what a beautiful opportunity for redemption.

towanda said...

You rock, WS.

Preacher Mom said...

Amen and amen.

LadyBurg said...

I love this and think you are amazing. We just had youth Sunday too and two seniors preached. I cry every year as I watch these young people I have loved and guided and worried over stand in the pulpit and proclaim the Word of God. It is stunning. And humbling. I know they have it in them but I'm always surprised, always stunned by the depth of their faith.

I am so thankful you are giving ALL the young people the chance you missed.

Grace thing said...

I have chills. Awesome post.

Karla MG said...

Amazing. What a gift. Your tears are watering new plants to grow in His glory! Thank you.

Mary Beth said...

THAT, my friend, blogs!

If someone were writing a new Gospel, it should be in there.

will smama said...

Wow. Thanks... and here I just thought I was revisiting a painful memory.

I appreciate the feedback and karla mg, what a cool way to put it.

Mrs. M said...

ws, that hurts just to read. Beautiful the way it came full circle.

Sue said...

Beautiful ws. Thanks.

Serena said...

Oh, I can so relate! And, thanks be to God that other young people won't have that experience because of you and others who, like you, remember that God has always used people who passionately, impulsively, awkwardly, playfully speak what's on their hearts! (Like Peter, and Paul ... and so many others of us)

zorra said...

*eyes prickling*
*lump in throat*

Your blog is always great, but I love this more than anything else you've ever written. Awesome.

will smama said...

thanks Zorra.