Middle school was the best time of my life. It was so easy. I was so confident in who I was. I never had an awkward look from others. Everyone was extremely nice and got along and things were just amazing. I really wish I could go back to middle school…
Actually, in case you didn’t guess, that last paragraph was sarcasm. Middle school is actually one of the hardest times of many teenagers’ lives. You are awkward, you feel funny all the time, and people can be just plain mean. You know that middle school is hard because almost no one ever says “Wow, I really wish I could go back to middle school.” (I don’t know that I know anyone who would say this, but never say never.)
I am a youth leader and also teach Bible classes in our Lutheran Day School. A lot of my work is with middle school students, and I can tell you that our church and our school are not here because your kids will never experience people being mean or cruel to each other. In fact, I know that they will be this year. Every kid, parent and teacher in middle school will experience people being downright awful. I know this because kids are sinners. Parents are sinners and so are teachers. Every year I know that we will experience people who are rude to us. They attack us and may say things that sting deeply. Maybe you as a parent or student will be the one who speaks those words of pain this year. Maybe it will be the teacher or youth leader. We all fall short and use words that hurt.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 NIV
If you haven’t done it, read that text above again.
This year I pray that all of us focus on these words of kindness and compassion. It is easy to cut down. It is easy to attack and strike out at people and hurt them. We have all done it and we will all do it again, but Jesus has called us to be people of kindness and forgiveness. That is what makes the Church community different from the world. We are called to forgive. We are called to look at others and forgive them because of Jesus’ incredible love for us. We are called to be kind.
I was talking with a parent once about his son who was a senior in high school. He said a girl from his middle school days was coming to his house to pick something up. The son was hiding and didn’t want to see her because she was very mean to him in middle school.
Today if you are reading this and thinking “I have been the issue”, let me remind you, Jesus’ incredible love is enough to cover over all your sin. You are forgiven. You are new today. Start over and live in that forgiveness.
Lastly, let’s follow Jesus’ lead and be kind and forgiving. For parents, for kids, for everyone – let’s forgive those things of the past. Maybe you as a parent or you as a teacher or you as a student need to forgive. Let others know us by our kindness, let them know us as people of forgiveness. Let go of the things that are in the past and start over. It is what the Church should be known for, and it is what we as God’s people are called to do. So this year be kind and forgive.
This weekend our congregation is going to be sharing the next steps of an initiative with the goal of campus renovation and expansion, in order to expand mission and ministry. It is called ONE Legacy. I started thinking about this weekend and what I want my kids to know about being generous with our finances for God’s ministry, and that prayer is important in our families life.
I was thinking, “What do I want my kids to learn from this moment?”. Often as a parent it is easy to go through the moment of growth and forget about what it is teaching your kids. I want to think, “How am I teaching my kids through this moment?”. My kids see me put something in the offering plate each week – they see me giving to God. Yet don’t want them to think of generosity as only being a ‘parent thing’, but rather that as a part of the community here at St. John, we are all called to share the gifts God has given us.
So here is what we are doing. We are going to have a conversation this weekend at the dinner table. We are going to pray. We are going to think about what are the things in our life we can let go of so that we can help our Church reach many with the Gospel. We may talk about giving up going out to dinner once a month. We may talk about using birthday and Christmas money for ONE Legacy instead, we may pray about giving up cable or Netflix or Slurpee’s!! Honestly I don’t know what it might look like. But seriously I want them to be a part of this moment.
Read John 6:1-13
I love this story because of one very important fact. In this version of the story we find out where the disciples got the five loaves and two fish. It came from a boy. It came from a kid. He had so little to offer and I am sure Jesus looked that boy in the eyes and said with your small gift I am going to change the world. I don’t need your small item to change the world but I am going to use your small sacrifice so that people can know of my love.
Talk with your kids this weekend. Talk with your kids about being generous in this moment. The Lord has given our family so much. It is a great conversation to have and so important as a part of the body of Christ.
School is coming…For some it is already here…For some parents it is a great day, for some parents their will be tears . For some kids it is a struggle filled with anxiety and for some kids they just cant wait to be back at school with their friends. It is a mix of anxiety, joy, fear, and excitement for a new year.
One things we will all experience this year is the busyness that comes with a new school year. It seems to me that every year, sports gets more intense, classes get harder for kids, the schedule for ministry even seems to get more and more intense. All these things may be amazing opportunities for learning, exercise, friendships, and fun. These things can make it almost impossible to have opportunities to share a meal, share your day, or just find times to be home and slowing down together with your family.
Somewhere as a family we all learned that to be the best parents we have to run, run, run. We have to be in everything, be there for everyone, and give our kids the most experiences possible. I am here to tell you we are all wrong on this front. Yes experiences for our kids are great. It is important to give them times to succeed, and fail, to find joy, and sadness so we can help them navigate those moments before they become adults. The thing I think we miss is how can we also teach them to rest. How do we teach them to slow down enjoy life with the people God has put in our lives.
This fall our Church is starting something new. We are calling it Family rest nights. The second and forth Wednesdays of each month during the school year we have opened the school and Church schedule so that no events happen in the building after 4pm. We want to model for families to be home and with each other gathered around His word. I love food so for us it will include a meal. We plan to send out emails with devotional questions, scripture readings, and prayers for the family. The goal is to help model family times of rest. My prayers is this will help families slow down and be. Slow down and be in the presence of each other and Jesus. I know I need to have those times of rest. Join us in resting in Jesus and growing together as a family.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42 NIV)
This morning in chapel at St. John I thought it would be fun to take all the palm branches left over from Palm Sunday and strewn them all down the aisles. It was a huge mess. I would say it might have been the biggest mess you can make in Church. In fact I was pretty sure after chapel the janitor would no longer be speaking to me with kind words. Kids walked in and were shocked by the mess on the floors. It was a glories mess. (By the way as a youth leader making a mess is what I do)
I had them read with me Mark 11:1-11. It is my favorite version of the story of Jesus being called king. In this text, Jesus rides his donkey into Jerusalem and the people were excited that this might be the next king to rule. They are excited because they thought he would come and kick out the romans and rule the world again. Jesus walks into the temple and does nothing. He just walks back out. I would say all the people who are holding those palm branches just dropped them on the floor. He wasn’t the king they expected, but He is a king and he would show them how he would clean up their mess they had in their lives.
I proceeded to share with the kids and staff about the mess we all live with. My family can make some big messes. Please don’t ever plan on just dropping in because if you do you will see a mess. If you give me some time I can clean up some and make it look like my house is clean. In fact I say to my wife and kids. The trick is make it look good but not too good so they don’t know we worked for a couple hours making it look clean. You see I think many of us have a mess in our lives we pretend isn’t really there, or we spend a lot of time making clean ups look like we have it all together. But here is the thing we are a mess.
This week is Holy week. It is the week Jesus shares with us that he isn’t here as some great king to conquer the world but here to clean up our mess. He shows us his love Thursday through being a servant, then he continues that service on Friday to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross to clean up our mess. He rose again Sunday to keep His promise of new life in Him.
If you haven’t been in worship in awhile I would encourage you to join the Church any Church these next four days. Come and see all He did for us. It wasn’t necessarily what we expected and certainly is more than just a quick cleaning. Jesus has come and rose again to bring new life and clean up the mess that is our life.
Thank you Jesus for your love and grace.
(By the way we did clean up the sanctuary today, and the janitor is still speaking to me…)