Yesterday was a wonderful day at church. It was Youth Sunday, and those of us who were able to gather for worship were led by our youth in singing, praying and hearing the Word together. The youth began in February to pray and plan for the worship service yesterday, and God certainly worked through them to bless us all.
As I sat and listened to six of our graduating seniors share their faith stories, I was struck by a common theme. They all described how important it has been to them to be part of a community of faith. Elizabeth Saum said, “Without Sunday School and small groups, I wouldn’t have the faith I have today.” Eli Horton shared, “I couldn’t have done life without my faith community.” Annlyn Zinke said, “The most important thing in life is to show up” and be present for God and for others in the community.
These youth reminded me how much of a difference it makes in my own life to be part of a loving faith community. I grew up in a family that went to church every Sunday. I was in Sunday School, in worship, and at youth gatherings on Sunday nights. Although I don’t remember the specifics of many sermons or Sunday School lessons, I remember my pastors, my teachers, my youth counselors and my peers. I remember those people who showed up, week after week. They taught me—sometimes with words but mostly with their presence—that God is love and God is with me.
As one of our seniors said, it is easy in the midst of our busy lives to stop showing up. With all of the activities and responsibilities that vie for our attention, it is difficult to make time for Sunday School or worship or small groups. But as Christians, we really can’t do life without a faith community. We need one another to help us grow in our love for God, our love for our neighbor and our love for ourselves.
As I listened to our seniors, I also couldn’t help but think about all of those people who have not been blessed by a loving faith community. Some have never experienced church at all. Others have been part of churches that judged them or even denounced them. Part of our work in the world is to seek out those who have been excluded or wounded or forgotten by the church, and invite them into a loving community of faith, where we are all accepted as we are and challenged to grow into who we are called to be.
For my part, I am deeply grateful for the faith community at West End UMC and the many ways you “show up” for me, for one another and for the hurting in our community. Let us continue to go looking for those who need to hear how beloved they are, so that all of us might continue to grow in love and faith together.
Prayer: Gracious God, in your wisdom and love you created the church to be the body of Christ in the world. You bless us every time we “show up,” and you shape us in your love each and every Sunday. Thank you for this community of faith, and help us never tire in seeking out those who are lost and wounded, that all might know your acceptance and grace. Amen.
Scripture for Sunday: Acts 8:26-40