Several months ago, I asked one of our youth, Chris, now about to start his senior year, if he wanted to preach on Youth Sunday. He lit up, a teenager hadn’t been allowed behind the pulpit in years, and he was clearly delighted to have the chance. I asked him to start thinking about what he wanted to say. Halfway through high school mission trip a month later, he ran up to me,
“Kat! I know what I want to do as a theme for Youth Sunday! It just popped in my head during worship tonight.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out folded-up pledge envelope, clearly swiped from the church we were staying in. “It’s OK not to know; let’s find out together.”
I was delighted. His idea was sweet, genuine, and thoughtful. His friends all agreed, they liked it too, and we decided to roll with it. Chris and Matt and I all had conversations around what Youth Sunday could look like, and it became clear that as much as Chris was excited, he was nervous — he didn’t feel like he knew enough about scripture or theology to know where to start. I thought of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, when he is defending himself to the church,
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom. I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking. My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-4
As we sketched out Chris’s sermon on whiteboards and notepaper in my office, it became clear that the medium was as much the message as any words we could say. Chris was right — it was OK for him (and us) not to know — not to know all the right scripture references, or theologians to quote. It was OK for his faith (and our faith) to be a work in progress. And, most of all, that knowing all of God’s secrets, or being an expert in speech and wisdom, wasn’t what made him (or anyone) qualified to stand at the pulpit, because the only thing he needed to know to be up there was Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. That the message of the gospel isn’t heard through the perfect argument, but through the grace of God acting through the Holy Spirit.
It is OK not to know, and as Chris preaches this weekend, and as teenagers lead liturgies, and music, and prayers, may we be reminded of the fact that what God desires of us, is not knowing the answers, but the faithful seeking of them, alongside all of our Christian community.
It’s OK not to know; let’s find out together.
Director of Youth Ministries