There is a priest in Baton Rouge who talks about some of his favorite interactions. Specifically, he says that on the occasions when he is not wearing his clerical collar, he loves to be asked what he does for a living. His standard response: life insurance salesman. Honest. Candid. And not inaccurate.
This past week, six of our younglings and two of our adults have been in Black Mountain, North Carolina at Montreat Conference Center for one of the annual Youth Conferences. Our theme this year considered the ways in which we are called to lift every voice in our work with God’s Kingdom on earth. The messages were eloquent and timely. From raising our own voices to cause change when the system causes harm to seeking out and embracing those voices that have long been silenced – our world is in desperate need of these efforts.
In the church, it is easy to focus on our quest for heaven, a happy afterlife, and God’s power to fix it all in the end. The problem is that is not what God, nor Jesus told us to do. Frankly, those are meant to be “afterthoughts” compared to the essential work that surrounds us in this time and in this place, on this planet.
In every time and in every place, children of God have been called to champion the voices and lives of those who have been marginalized, outcast, forgotten, and oppressed. In the early days of Mt. Sinai, it was the orphan, the widow, and the alien. When the Word made flesh arrived, the group expanded to include the sick, the children, the poor, all women, those who are labeled in any way, those in prison, and countless others.
It is not that God does not care about all of us. On the contrary, God is drawing our attention to those blind spots we create, asking us to see them, and then pushing us to call out the power structures until no more blind spots remain.
The goal is to expand God’s love, never to limit it.
As we heard this past week, there is much work to be done. And every voice counts – including our youth, who provide a unique viewpoint that only they can see with their set of life experiences.
For those who have been at home, we know that as you have been joyfully praying for us, you have also been as troubled as we have by the events occurring in the world around us. These are not easy times to be people of faith. Nevertheless, that is precisely the life to which Christ has called us.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu taught us – all humanity is inextricably linked together. We cannot and do not exist in isolation. The Apostle Paul understood this well when he described the church as a human body: we cannot exist without every part. All of us are essential. Especially those parts that we want to forget about (i.e. the humans who we would prefer remained forgotten, subdued, cast-out).
So, here is how we begin: Whatever experiences and questions you have – bring them to church. Whatever gifts you were given and prayers linger in your inmost heart – offer them to the body of Christ. Wherever, whoever, whatever you may feel that you are – you are welcome, valued, and necessary to God’s efforts at Highland and in the world.
May our theme song this past week serve as a prayer for the road of work ahead: We will lift the voice of every person, every child. Lord, our hearts cry out for a world reconciled. God you call us by name. God you weep with our pain. O… Lift every voice.