This Week's Sermon
January 19, 2020
As I read this story about the apostle Paul from the book of Acts, listen from the perspective of the jailer’s family. What would it have been like to be married to a first century Roman jailer, you were probably all good law abiding Pagans, offering your regular sacrifices to the pantheon of Roman gods. Who knows how many children and servants you had -
Imagine what it would have been like to be a child in this good, main stream and definitely not socially awkward or weird home. And then, you come home from your daily activities one day and Dad tells you:
Well, listen to this story and hear for yourself what their Dad must have told them:
A reading from the book of Acts 16:25-31
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
The bible doesn’t talk much about children. Jesus famously said “let the little children come unto me, for such is the kingdom of God.” It was an important rebuke to his adult disciples at the very moment when they were trying to compartmentalize the children from their leader. And maybe that is one reason why the church developed so many programs to teach youth our faith. According to Jesus, “letting the little ones” come to him is something that he very much wants.
And, so do we.
Current cutting edge research tells us some intriguing things about how to best let the little ones come to Jesus. As essential as Christian Education is and it is essential.
It turns out that youth catch faith much more than they learn it. They do learn it. Youth who memorize the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 and other basic teachings of the faith have absorbed precious words that will be there for them throughout their life and we need continue to find ways to bring those words to them.
In addition to all that good learning, it turns out to be true that youth catch faith far more than they learn it.
For those of us who have lived our faith for many decades, we have worked and reworked the way that we believe. We believe the same words that we memorized when we were 7 0r 10 or 12:
“The Lord is my Shepherd...”
Our Father, who art in heaven
And now, their meaning for us is much thicker than it was when we first learned them. We may leave more room for mystery and at the same time have a much clearer conviction that, whatever the details, the One that all these words point to has been our Shepherd and parent in ways that we never could have predicted.
These are things we don’t talk about easily, especially in our mainstream kind of tradition. But children can see these things on our face when we sing, when we read scripture, when we show up to cook or serve a meal. When we affirm them and their life even as we walk with them into a service of worship they can see for themselves how our faith has become more solid for us and they can begin to look for the ways that faith grows and matures in their own life journey.
All that cutting edge research teaches us that, more than anything else, young people need to spend time with their elders – the elders that is who care for them.
That is why we are offering a service of worship in which “Families come together, families stay together and families be together.”
The service is called “Church on the Stage.” It will be in Chamberlain Hall because we live an hour west of Manhattan. There are a lot of people around here who love theater and plays and acting. In fact, most of you know that this church has an amazing history of offering the area fantastic productions on this stage.
Church on the stage is also active. It is not only active. If you want to come and let youth catch faith from you by being present but remain seated, you will add your worship and faith and be a blessing.
We are making this service more active quite honestly because I have been listening to young people. They don’t like sitting still. And, if you go spend time in any decent school, you will see that youth aren’t asked to sit still in school any more, not for very long anyway, certainly not for an hour!
There are two key passages in scripture about children, youth, families and passing along our faith. The new testament passage was about the Roman jailer who came to believe in God after he saw how Paul and Barnabus conducted themselves in his jail. Paul, Barnabus and God saved the jailers life. So, it makes sense that he would want to be baptized. After they and God saved his life, the story says three times: “he and his entire household were baptized.” Stories say things 3 times when a particular detail is important, and so we know that in the very beginning of the Jesus movement, youth in the Roman household came into the faith as a member of their family through the leadership of their father. They no doubt got to see the emotion on their Dad’s face as he told them that, had it not been for the faith of Paul and Barnabus, he would have been killed for allowing their jail to open up in the earth quake.
Many hundreds of years before that Jailer lived, we have our very first story in scripture about young people. I am referring to the account of the Passover meal that Beth read to us.
From the very beginning God told us already how to help young people catch faith.
• Do something together and when they ask questions, be ready to answer them. In the case of the Passover, the activity was to prepare and eat a meal, and probably also to clean up.
• So, on Sat. Feb. 1 at 4:30 PM, we will offer an active service in which we do things together that give us all a chance to run our fingers through a bible story. The play we will act out together is meant to be acted out by adults and children because we want them to catch faith from us. You don’t have to act out the play in order to contribute, but it isn’t meant to just be children up and doing things.
Finally, we are offering this family oriented, intergenerational service because we believe that what God has given to us is good news for people in our area.
Did you know that more than 200 homes were sold last year in Verona? I wonder if any of those homes are near you. God has brought us new neighbors to love. We have advertised this new service and so there may be some people there who don’t normally come to worship on Sunday morning. I will have a list of new home purchases in Chamberlain Hall. Look it over and if any of the addresses are near your home, this is a great chance to bring them a postcard and let them know that Church on the Stage is available to them. We are also advertising through Facebook.
If we do have any guests, even just one, we will very much be in the role of hosts.
Ok, now we are on familiar ground. You know what to do when you host a party.
Have you ever had people come to your home and some of the people are from one circle, and some are from another and yet another group from a third circle? You know how to host that kind of event:
• if you see someone looking alone, just go be next to them and see if they would like your company – easy going, keep it light, be interested in them.
• learn the name of people you don’t know
• if someone looks lost ask if you can help them
One of the things we will do in Church on the Stage is sing music that we will play through our new sound system, projecting the words up on our screen.
• I will invite people who want to lead music to come up front and lead, hopefully as a group.
• I will invite people who want to sing to remain where they are and sing along
• I will invite people who want to listen to remain where they are and listen.
It really is all good!
And, if you see that someone comes forward to lead a song and they turn out to be the only person who comes forward, and if you are in the role of a host, maybe you would decide to come up and stand with them simply to help them feel more comfortable.
These are all just examples of how we can host guests who may come to Church on the Stage, or any activity in which we are blessed to have guests.
I believe that God wants us to use our restored stage to try this out because
• I have been listening to our youth: they don’t like sitting still for an hour
• I have been listening to the history of this church, we love doing things on that stage!
• I have been listening to scripture: God has shown us long ago how to help our youth catch faith. It is by doing things together that have to do with God and then answering their questions about the reasons for our activity.
Whether you come to Church on the Stage and take part in the activity,
or whether you come and remain not as active but very present
or whether you pray for the people moving into this town and who will come to this service, we can all serve as hosts in God’s name.