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 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…)
Most of the time during lent people spend the day thinking about what they are going to be giving up for Lent. For me I have never really found that helpful for my spiritual formation. Giving up sweets makes me angry. Giving up chocolate would make me down right angry. Mostly I would be thinking all day about how I missed that food or thing I gave up. For me it doesn’t point me to Jesus. I want you all to know I don’t find anything wrong with giving something up for lent as it is certainly a spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is a time honored way of strengthening ones faith. For me however it has never been appealing or truly beneficial.
So today I decided to do something different. I decided instead of taking something away I am going to add something to my family’s life. We are going to spend the next 40 days reading through the Gospels. We are going to spend this time on the journey to the cross following Jesus’ journey to the cross. I know for me reading the scripture brings it alive. I am excited for this journey and would challenge you to think about it as well.
In the reading schedule I gave myself a day off because lets be honest having a day off is needed sometimes. Life can be crazy busy. I don’t need something else to give me more guilt for messing up. So below is the plan.
My goal this Lenten season is to journey to the cross with my Lord and Savior. My prayer is that many of you will join in this journey. Let us be in the Word together as we make this journey to the cross and see these great things he has done for us.
Lent Reading Plan: 2017
||Matthew 10-Matthew 12
||Matthew 13-Matthew 14
||Matthew 15-Matthew 16
||Matthew 17-Matthew 18
||Matthew 19-Matthew 20
||Matthew 21-Matthew 22
||Take a Break
||Matthew 23-Matthew 24
||Matthew 25-Matthew 26
||Matthew 27-Matthew 28
||Mark 1-Mark 3
||Mark 4-Mark 6
||Mark 7-Mark 9
||Take a Break
||Mark 10-Mark 12
||Mark 13-Mark 14
||Mark 15-Mark 16
||Luke 1-Luke 3
||Luke 4-Luke 6
||Luke 7-Luke 9
||Take a Break
||Luke 10-Luke 12
||Luke 13-Luke 14
||Luke 15-Luke 16
||Luke 17-Luke 18
||Luke 19-Luke 20
||Luke 21-Luke 22
||Take a Break
||Luke 23-Luke 24
||John 1-John 2
||John 3-John 4
||John 5-John 6
||John 7-John 8
||John 9-John 10
||Take a Break
||John 11-John 12
||John 13-John 14
||John 15-John 16
||John 17-John 18
||John 19-John 20
Sunday night I decided it was important for our Jr. High students to pray for our world. So for about 45 minutes we prayed. We broke into groups and walked around the building praying for people. We prayed in both worship spaces for the people who will worship there. We prayed for the guests who will be with us for Easter and Holy Week. We prayed for the leaders who lead worship, that they may point us to Jesus. We went to the Atrium and looked North and South of the building and prayed for the lost, the Muslims, Jews and other unbelievers. Then we walked to the east end of the building and prayed for those at Crittenton hospital, for the sick, the doctors, Nurses and other staff. After those 25 minutes we headed back to Luther hall and prayed for a specific person in our lives who needed to hear about Jesus or who was struggling with things in life. It was a neat experience.
Hearing students pray out loud for those they never met was a cool experience. It was amazing to me how well the students in my group prayed out loud for those who need Jesus. They spent 45 minutes praying for others. They prayed for the lost in this world. They want them to know Jesus.
We ended the night in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. We focused on the importance of sharing Jesus and Him crucified for us. You see I think we try to make this witnessing thing way more complicated than it has to be. My goal last night was to remind those teens and myself, we don’t have to know all the answers about Jesus to share him with others. We just share Jesus and him crucified for us and let the Holy Spirit work on the hearts of others.
In the next couple of weeks, we are going to meet others curious about Jesus. They are going to wondering about this Jesus person. As Easter approaches you will have opportunities to share Jesus. Point them to Jesus’ work on the cross. Focus on him crucified and raised for you.
I like to dress up for Lutheran schools week. My goal each year for this week is to dress up as much as possible. I am all about “going big or going home”. My favorite part is watching peoples reactions when I walk in the building. I know I look like a nut. I know I should probably never go out in public like this but I do. I do it all because I love to draw attention to myself….(ok that sounds really narcissistic when you write it that way but keep reading so you don’t think too poorly of me.)
The reason I dress this way is so you notice me. I want you to notice me SO THAT I can share with you this guy who has made me nuts. This guy who made me dress up in costumes, dye my hair pink and go all out for Lutheran Schools weeks each year. I want you to know this Jesus guy who ruined my life SO THAT I can no longer miss opportunities to share with you Jesus. The one who loved me so much He gave Himself for me. He loved me. This awkward kid who was not the coolest kid in the world. A guy who was bald and 26 and has very little filter when talking with others. A guy who is trying to follow Jesus.
So tomorrow or the next day when you see me walking around its ok to stare. I don’t mind if you laugh. I don’t mind much of anything. I just hope you know I really am not doing these crazy things for me. I am doing them SO THAT you might know Jesus and the joy he gives me every day. So lets all think about ways we can share Jesus and the joy we have in Him.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV