Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)I am reasonably sure I referenced this passage during a Youth Sunday meditation I delivered near the end of my senior year in high school. Part of me wishes I could dig it up for reference, while an equal part of me is fairly certain I don’t want to see crystal clear evidence of how I saw the world when I was 17. I thought much more highly of myself as a writer and a speaker then than I do now, and in retrospect the unfounded confidence is simply embarrassing.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Since that was basically half my life ago at this point — which is weird enough to consider on its own — the details are fuzzy at best. But it seems to me I appointed myself the mouthpiece of the graduating class and attempted to thank the congregation for all it invested in our Christian education over the years, exhorting them to keep fighting the good fight. Because, after all, they were looking at Exhibit A of the best-case scenario, right?
I hope I’m not alone in remembering my classmates were proud of our dedication. For a variety of reasons, we’d seen (or thought we saw) the three senior classes before us generally fade away from youth group and church activities by the end of their high school careers. We pledged to be different, to be leaders, to be present. Whether it was a sense of duty to the church, of gratitude for the youth group and how it fed our souls or just the pride that comes from being on the brink of adulthood and being hit with, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” messages at every turn, or some combination of the three and any other factors, we were together and committed.
I still love those people a great deal, and I try to stay in touch with all of them — though in some cases we are literally half a world apart from one another. I have love also for my “secular” friends from the same era, but I do think it was something different, and special, with the church kids. And though there’s little doubt I was fairly awkward in my delivery, I am still incredibly grateful for everyone who took seriously the words of the Great Commission and the congregational vows that are part of the baptism liturgy.
From nursery attendants all the way to the senior pastors and everyone in between — Sunday school teachers, Vacation Bible School volunteers, music leaders, youth group leaders and volunteers, the pastoral staff, the parents who drove us everywhere — I was incredibly blessed to grow up in this church family. I’m in no position to say it was better or worse than any other congregation, but it was just right for me and I’ll forever be grateful to have that foundation.
And while I realize Jesus’ parting words here are much grander in scale than “get your kids involved with church,” I also believe if I can’t adequately share my faith and its importance with my own offspring, I’m in no position to bring it to anyone else. So I won’t limit my scope on this matter to just the people who are carrying on my DNA, but I can’t think of any better place to start. I often say they and my wife are the most important people to me, and I can underscore that statement by making sure we are a family of faith — together. May it be ever so.
A prayer for May 9:
Lord, you have blessed me in so many different ways, starting with the day I was born. The hope and peace your saving grace brings are my greatest gifts, and I want to make sure my children understand what that can mean to them as well. I also intend to live thankfully, because of your love, and to share your good news. I am thankful for your promise to be with us always, and I ask you to help me find the right way to tell others your story. Amen.