Yesterday morning I was the speaker for the Adult Enrichment Program at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, speaking on the topic of how my years as a Buddhist have enriched and influenced my Christianity. Before my talk, I attended Sunday morning service at the church.
Yesterday was “Youth Sunday,” at House of Hope. The service was designed and largely conducted by the youth of the parish. I was extraordinarily impressed by the beauty of the service and the poise and talent of those who participated in it. The music by the various choirs and musicians was lovely. The service included two readings (“lessons”), each followed by a reflection by one of the young people, each of which was quite thoughtful.
Although there was much in the reflection on the first reading – a passage from Jeremiah that I love – that I found worthwhile, I found more interesting my reaction to the second.
The second reading was from the first letter of Timothy, which began, “Command and teach these things. Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.”
The high school senior who read the reading and offered the reflection, who is apparently a skilled Zumba instructor, admitted that sometimes it is intimidating to stand in front of a room of adults and lead a class. More to the point, there are often people who are shocked to discover that she, given her youth, is the instructor.
Later in her talk she gave some very direct advice to the congregation about living out their faith. And, I confess, I felt myself taken a bit aback, the thought arising, “Isn’t she a little young to be speaking in such direct terms about what her listeners (her “elders”) should be doing?”
Sigh. I found myself unconsciously doing exactly what the Scripture instructed against. And exactly what the people in Jesus’ hometown did – “Isn’t he just the carpenter’s son? Why should we listen to him?”
Fortunately, as swiftly as my reaction arose, I recognized it for what it was and returned to considering what the young woman was saying, which was quite sound advice and instruction.
Yet again, I am reminded of our need to judge the message, not the messenger, realizing that God speaks to us in many ways – not always in the way we expect.