Thursday, June 3, 2010

Crossing Generations

Scripture appointed for Trinity Sunday includes Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; and John 16:12-15

Here we are on Trinity Sunday. Isn’t that just like the Church? For the rest of the world, it’s the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, with celebrations of patriotic service and displays of barbecue skill. For the Church, today calls us to celebrate the fullness of God and the three ways God is shown and known in Christian tradition:

Father, Mother, God who made us

Son, God in our flesh, who redeemed us

Spirit, the intimate over-the-top love between God the Father and
God the Son, the gracious force-field we enter in Baptism,
the movement of God who makes us one, holy, and all-embracing.

And it’s on this day, this year, that we celebrate our high school seniors, all that they mean to us, all the ways they have found to bless us in their years growing up around us, because of us, in spite of us. And we dare to hope that, as they graduate and fashion a larger life, they carry with them some blessing we’ve been part of giving.

So I’d like to start that ball rolling by naming three lessons I’ve learned in their company, with much credit and gratitude to Laurie and Peter, their leaders.

I’ve learned, first, that a good Confirmation program isn’t built on a curriculum that tries to fill adolescent heads with the Church’s language, traditions, doctrines, and attitudes. A good Confirmation program rises out of seasons of trust and familiarity built by and among a circle of young adults allowing some older adults into their lives.

Which quickly brings me to what I’ve learned, second: that a good high school ministry doesn’t require a curriculum, but does require seasons of building trust and familiarity across some generations. If I’m not mistaken, most Sundays in that room of low sofas, sometimes draped full-length with teenagers recovering from the thought of rising that early on a Sunday morning, the structure of their experience together has been to go around the circle offering answers to two questions: What was best in your life this past week? And what was worst? Checking-in can provide just enough real life to reflect on, to identify themes that matter, subjects with traction to them.

And from there, third, I have learned what I am also learning from our Singing Suppers: that real liturgy, life-giving and life-sustaining, happens in settings and in rituals outside this room, without benefit or burden of rules and rubrics. There will be some things in common between liturgy there and liturgy here: the telling of stories, respectful listening, truth-telling, a blending of voices, food, expressing what matters, openness to movements of Spirit, readiness to serve, building of friendships, and enough surprise to leaven the lump of what is otherwise familiar, even predictable.

I had the pleasure of joining, on a few occasions, the circle of most of these seniors as they prepared for Confirmation, last year. We focused on five holy habits, learning what they mean to each person, where we’re already doing some, experimenting with how we could do others. Worship, Prayer, Study, Witness, Action. Skills of the Spirit, ways to be open to God and self and others, holy practices that build a peaceable kingdom.

I was impressed by how much love and respect resides in this circle. And by how interested and receptive they were, when Courtenay visited them to explore meditation. And by how we didn’t rush to turn the lights on in the room, when it grew dark outside. (I recall that we had a single candle burning at the center of the circle, and it was sufficient for that campfire.) I’m sure we’ll hear, later in this service, Laurie’s and Peter’s witness to what is remarkable about these seniors.

I want to pay tribute to what’s special about Laurie and Peter, and how they’ve worked with these young adults.

Like Lady Wisdom in our first reading, “rejoicing before God always, rejoicing in God’s world and delighting in the human race,” Laurie and Peter have delighted in these young friends.

Like the psalm-singer, Laurie and Peter have suggested to them (without citing chapter and verse) that they may understand themselves and their fellow humans as having been made little lower than the angels, adorned with glory and honor.

As St. Paul taught the Christians in Rome, Laurie and Peter have witnessed to these young Christians how their own hope and character have been shaped, sometimes through their own suffering.

And I can hear Peter and Laurie saying to this circle what Jesus said to his disciples: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Jesus had to rely on headquarters to send “another, even the Spirit of truth” to complete his work in the world. In a promise we all receive, he says that when the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit will take all that belongs to Jesus and make it clear to his followers and friends.

There’s every reason to expect that these seniors will find, in future seasons, things coming back to them, things coming clear to them, that were shared and discussed in their circle, and find trusted guidance as the Spirit of truth knits together the best of the past with the opportunities and responsibilities of the present, because God’s love has been poured into their hearts, through Laurie and Peter, but also through one another.

They have had a good taste of Christian community, and we celebrate that today. We pray, also, that the Spirit will have whetted their appetites for more. I have a hunch that they’ve learned, in their seasons together, how to recognize, welcome, and build that “more”.