During this Sunday’s service, we heard from our community’s 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering participants. From July 15-19, they joined around 30,000 other Lutherans from all over the US and the globe to worship, pray, learn, and serve alongside the people of Detroit, Michigan. To learn more about the details of their trip, scroll down to read the series of posts titled “Rise Up Together”. Below in this post is a reflection I wrote on the experience in light of Sunday’s texts.
1 Timothy 3:14-4:11
+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
These past three weeks, we’ve been exploring the Apostles’ Creed and how it applies to our lives as the people of God in Christ. We’ve acknowledged God the Father as our generous and gracious Creator; we’ve professed Jesus as our redeemer and Lord; we’ve talked about the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe faith and new life into us and send us into the world in service to God and our neighbors.
Two weeks ago, our group of seven from Falls City was approaching the end of our time in Detroit, a time in which we had ample opportunity to experience the power and presence of the Triune God and to live into the words that we profess each week. Our church’s choice to go to Detroit was motivated, in part, by the kind of thinking present in today’s reading from 1 Timothy:
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5, NRSV)
We went to Detroit, not to bring the presence of God to a city that had been forsaken, but to encounter the living God already at work among the people who call it home. We went to a city that had already been sanctified by God’s word and prayer, a city that may be despised in the eyes of the world, but that is precious in the sight of the God who created it and its citizens. In the process, we chose not to listen to the myths and rumors and idle tales about a place most people had never visited, but instead to open ourselves to experiencing firsthand how God works in places of brokenness to bear burdens, build bridges, break chains, and bring hope.
Along the way, we had a lot of fun and were part of making a huge difference in Michigan’s largest city, joining some 30,000 brothers and sisters in Christ to collect 1 million diapers, distribute 1,425 backpacks, clear 3,200 vacant lots of debris, board up 319 vacant homes, paint 1,847 mural boards, install 36 urban gardens, build 99 picnic tables, fill 26 dumpsters, and bring change to 600 neighborhoods. We heard life-changing proclamation and inspiring stories of hope in the midst of despair, as we were nourished on the words of the faith. (1 Timothy 4:6, NRSV) We became aware that we belong to a church that is bigger and wider than our imaginings. Most importantly, we were changed by our encounter with Jesus Christ, the one who was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed by Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, [and] taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16, NRSV)
I think I can speak for the rest of our group when I say thank you for supporting us on this journey. Please feel free to ask us more about our trip in the days and weeks to come as we continue to reflect on our experience and what it means to Rise Up Together with our brothers and sisters across the world.
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all the people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10, NRSV)
Thanks be to God! Amen.