Matthew 5:33 -37, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Julie Jones, Dave Taylor and I were privileged to attend the ROCK retreat with our 6 youth from Mayo. Over the weekend they experienced 4 sermons, 4 concerts, Holy Communion with thousands of their peers, time for studying God’s word, time for fellowship, and the list goes on and on. In other words, we came back tired but refreshed! I asked each of them to share a bit about their experience, so after the initial shock and fear they agreed. Ms. Julie put together this slide show to give you just a taste of ROCK to get us started. [Show video]
[Sharing by Dawson, Noah, Marayna, Casey, Jessie, Nikki]
To say that ROCK is a life-changing experience is no exaggeration. I wanted to violate one of the seven deadly sins and display my pride in our youth. They were absolutely amazing – getting along, being on time, adjusting to some surprises, and basically making all of us proud to have them as part of this congregation. [pause] I would estimate that roughly 2,000 youth responded to the altar call given to take or renew their stand with Jesus Christ. Like the scripture noted in 1 Corinthians, they were just beginning their journey of faith, or rededicating their lives to take the next faithful step.
One thing we often see with those who are just starting out, is the difficulties they face immediately upon returning from such a wonderful, mountaintop experience. Many fall away. Just like the parable that Jesus shared about the sower who sows and sows and sows only to have ¾ of the seeds fall on unfertile ground, many struggle and fall away because they have no root, or there are trials they face that seem too overwhelming, or the pressures of fitting in at school become too great. Here is my challenge to all of us as church members, church attenders, church leaders – uphold our mission. Do everything we can to nurture and help these young people grow their faith. Be the example they would want to follow, both here and outside these walls. Pray for our young people and the infinite struggles they need to endure each day. I implore each of us to live out our faith as followers, not fans, of Jesus Christ.
The scripture from 1 Corinthians is a letter from the apostle Paul to the well-established church in Corinth. Yet in spite of being a church together for some time, they were still babies when it came to their faith in Jesus Christ. They were still acting as if they had just started their walk with God only to be distracted by some in-fighting, church leaders delving into sinful acts, folks coming to the communion table as if it was an all-you-can-eat buffet leaving nothing for those who would come later. They had forgotten their charge to love God and love their neighbor. Maybe they got a little caught up in doing church instead of being the church.
Preston Centuolo was our speaker for ROCK and he was very open about sharing his struggles with depression, anxiety, his difficulties growing up as a special needs person when he was basically the only one in his school identified to need extra help. He shared his experience with people who were beautiful but only on the outside. Perhaps we know some of those folks as well. Maybe we are familiar with what the Bible refers to as hypocrites – those who speak one way but act another. If we are not reflecting the love of Jesus in all we say, all we do, all we are – perhaps we too have lost our focus. It was interesting that Preston referred to fans of Jesus – just what we have been talking about. He challenged the youth and adults present to get in the game. We were not meant to be spectators. We are meant to be active participants in sharing our love for Jesus Christ, the one who gave his all for us.
I wanted to share with you some things that are coming down the pike. We are hosting a dinner at the Lighthouse Shelter Sunday March 12. We are planning a work day here at the church for April 1. We are actively planning Vacation Bible School for the last week of June. We are seeking out a mission opportunity where we would spend the week fixing houses, doing outdoor chores – whatever is needed to help some of our neighbors in need – for the end of the summer. There’s a lot to be done. The field is ripe for harvest but the laborers are few. Are we willing to step out and be laborers for Jesus Christ? Are we willing to live out our faith and start eating some solid food?
One thing that will be occurring on Pentecost Sunday is a renewal of our membership vows. You might recall that when you join the church you are asked to support Mayo with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness but I don’t think we ever defined what that would look like. We also never made it clear what someone can expect from becoming a church member – in other words, what does the church provide? The church council is crafting this right now and will be presented in March. I will also be inviting any who wish to join the church to do so on Pentecost Sunday as well. This all seems to go along with today’s scripture from Matthew. When we say ‘yes’ to these promises as church members, then we are to live out our faith not just in words but actions.
I wanted to thank our youth here today who conquered their fears of public speaking to share their ROCK experiences. I wanted to thank all of you who supported this weekend with your prayers and financial support. I wanted to thank all of you who continue to live out your faith in order to help raise up the next generation of believers in Jesus Christ. Let us not be satisfied with only surface faith – being fans and not getting in the game. Let us continue to grow and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ so that we can move beyond just drinking milk but are ready to eat the solid food of mature Christians – followers of Jesus Christ through our words and our actions. Amen.