I was working with our youth ministries intern, Gabby, on her outline for her bible study today, and I found myself giving a lot more feedback, and more emotional feedback, than normal. My email back to her turned into a sermonette and as I sent it up, I realized why: because it matters more today.
This is Holy Week, during the biggest global crisis of our teenagers’ young lives. What we say about who God is, about who Jesus is in this exact moment matters.
So what do we say? In my blog, Just 4 things, I talked about our foundational grounding during this time, especially when I was hearing so much from our teenagers about how they felt like God “was on vacation or something” or was “cleansing the earth, like the flood” or how they thought it was the “end of days.”
I’ve been asking teenagers where they see God in this — and they have struggled to answer — but have come up with “the kindness of strangers,” “beautiful weather,” “family time,” which is lovely, but can I add mine?
In Elie Wiesel’s Night, he tells a story of being in the concentration camps, and being marched by those who had been hung.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“For God’s sake, where is God?”
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
“Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows…”
This is where God is: God is on the cross, suffering and dying alone. God is in overcrowded New York ERs, God is at the bedside of those who die without loved ones around to hold their hands, God is putting on a homemade face-mask. Where is God? God is here, in this, our crucifixion. God has shown us who God is.
In this Holy Week, we look again at the story of our God who was crucified, who entered into the deepest of human suffering and was broken alongside us. Last week in the Gathering, Lance talked about how Jesus knows who we want him to be, but he is instead what we need him to be.
Maybe we want God to be above all this, casting down miracles and judgements according to some grand roster of worthiness, but in Jesus, God has shown us where God truly is, and that’s here, crying in Target parking lots, feeling our stomach drop when our parents or children cough, in Italian emergency hospitals where doctors decide who they will try to save.
And that matters. God has shown us what perfect love is in Jesus, and that love didn’t sweep in and solve problems, it didn’t tell us we didn’t have it so bad, or to make the most of the situation. That love came and walked alongside and prayed alongside and suffered alongside.
Easter will come, death will be defeated, God will reconcile and heal all things. But today it matters we remember where God is in the meantime.
Director of Youth Ministries