Aka “Jentern Sunday (Reprise)”
Last summer I had the opportunity to completely take over a Sunday at the Justin. The pre-scheduled theme for the Sunday was “relationship with God,” and I decided to tell the story of my call to ministry. Most of the high schoolers at that time had known me as a youth, but didn’t necessarily know about my life. I got to pour my heart out as I explained how much of an impact FUMCFW Youth Ministries had on my life and my call story, and they got to physically walk through some prayer stations that I had participated in as a youth over the years that were pivotal moments for me. Overall it went very well, and my heart was content.
Flash-forward to this summer and I was again given the opportunity to take over a Sunday, but this time the pre-scheduled theme read “JJ last day.” So with an endless number of options of what I could potentially teach, I thought back to last summer. In a lovely moment of clarity, I realized I needed to finish what I had started last summer. I had told the youth my story up to where I finally started telling people about my call to ministry, but that’s where I stopped, I didn’t tell them anything about what I feel called to. On July 22 we will be picking up where I left off, and I will get to talk about my vision for my life and ministry in the world.
In my last three years at Oklahoma City University, God has done some serious tugging on my heartstrings. OCU has radically changed who my demographic neighbors are, and has pushed me to love them as radically as Jesus would if he were there.
I have befriended Jews, and Muslims, and Christians from other denominations and they have each had something different but equally special to teach me about God. Some of my most humbling experiences from college have come from hearing about their faiths and having the striking realization that God created all of us to be beautifully and uniquely ourselves, with beautiful and unique relationships with the one who created us in the first place.
I want our youth to celebrate diversity. I want them to own who they are and their uniqueness while also lifting up others in theirs’, and I’m not just talking about people who look like them and worship the same way they do. I want them to know that “made in God’s image” is not exclusive. For all the things that are unique about each individual youth, I want them to know that they are all children of God, beloved, redeemed, beautiful, accepted, chosen, on purpose, and fearfully and wonderfully made.
With our uniqueness and our decision to follow Jesus comes the responsibility of how we are to be in relationship with the rest of humankind. According to Romans 12:9-18, here is (roughly) what we are called to:
We are called to love every and all neighbor without pretending.
We are called to give what we can to those who need it, to welcome strangers into our homes.
We are called to own our uniqueness but be humble about who we are so that we can better appreciate those around us.
We are called to live at peace with all people to the best of our ability.
When we come to the end of a worship service in the sanctuary and we say we are going to go out and be God’s people in the world, I believe we are committing to be a people overflowing with love, a people who celebrate the diversity around them, and a people who, to the best of their ability, live at peace with all people. How truly beautiful it is that “Let There Be Peace on Earth” is our benediction each Sunday.
So — spoiler alert for any youth who may be reading — the punch line of my talk is this:
Love without pretending, because God recklessly loves every human being that God created. Celebrate and appreciate diversity, because “made in God’s image” is not exclusive. Live at peace with all people — your brothers and sisters from around the world, because they, like you, are children of God, beloved, redeemed, beautiful, accepted, chosen, on purpose, and fearfully and wonderfully made.
Grace & Peace,
Youth Ministries Intern