If you were in the 11:00 sanctuary service this week, you may have noticed our worship leaders looked a little younger than usual. That’s because this week was Youth Sunday! Youth Sunday is the annual tradition where one Sunday a year, our youth, or our church members in middle and high school, design, plan and lead the traditional worship service. The morning is a fun combination of injecting some of the fun, energy and quirkiness of teenage life and demonstrating the incredible capacity teenagers have as serious people of faith, and part of our Christian community.
My general experience of teenagers has been that they’ll basically live up to whatever expectation you set for them. Whether we set the bar high or low, call out the best in them, or fixate on the worst, we are building in them what we name in them. We as the church then have a unique gift when it comes to interacting with teenagers: we know that Jesus is at work in them, and that God’s image is irrevocably present in them. We know that they are beloved children made in the image of a perfect God, and we can see that in them, even when they can’t see it in themselves. The best way to faithfully walk alongside them is to see and call out that in themselves, that imago dei, which they can’t even see yet.
Youth Sunday gives us that chance. Youth Sunday gives us the chance to show the community, and show the teenagers that lead it, that they aren’t just teenagers, they’re leaders, and theologians, and liturgists. I love watching teenagers lead liturgy, because, in one sense, it’s just reading, something that they are equally capable of doing as adults, but more importantly because it places them among a holy community of others that have read those words. Teenagers, I’ll admit, can find pre-written liturgies stuffy, but when they read them, those exact words that have been read by our tradition for centuries, they establish themselves as equal brothers and sisters in that tradition, and equal recipients of the grace it promises.
I love Youth Sunday. I love Youth Sunday for its own sake, for its fun and excitement and novelty, but I love it more for its theology. I love senior Emma Burrows inviting people to be members of the Church, and I love eighth grader Carson Magryta telling the congregation that they are pardoned through Christ. The fact is, Carson has equal right to tell us we are forgiven as any ordained clergy do, and that is a beautiful piece of what our faith means.
Our youth did an amazing job this past weekend and I was so proud of them, but not because they performed their parts well. I knew they would. As I mentioned, they can read. I’m proud of them because of the message to congregation that they represented, of inclusion, joy, and grace without merit, and I’m proud of their willingness to claim their role as part of the kingdom of God.
Thank you to all of you who came, and to all of our youth families who participated as ushers, servers, musicians, cheerleaders, and liturgists. You all did a beautiful job, and this church, and God, was served by your work!