Every week we hope to create environments where students have an opportunity to hear truth about their identity in Christ and his great love for us all. We strive to achieve this using creative teaching strategies, fun games, personal conversations, and object lessons. Sometimes they work great, and sometimes they don't catch on at all.
Tonight we kicked off our month of "theme nights" where each week has a different theme and we encourage students to dress according to the theme. Apparently the most appropriate way to celebrate the theme of backwards is by not participating at all. Of the 30 or so students present tonight, only one made any attempt to dress the theme, and she even reversed course (or rather unreversed?) by turning her hoodie around the right way soon after seeing other students.
I don't think it was a total failure though. We played a game that involved buttoning a shirt while wearing it backwards, putting on over-sized pants backwards, and racing backwards around the parish hall. Though students were hesitant to jump in, and skeptical of the game, by the time the backwards running began there was cheering and most were following along.
Our teaching tonight centered around some of the "backwards" lessons Jesus taught. Things that on their surface seem counterintuitive to most people. "Love your enemies", "turn the other cheek", and "the last will be first" are all teachings that continue to speak to even the most faithful of Christians. All are great lessons and worthy of study and discussion, but the best example of "backwards" tonight came from an unexpected source.
Tonight we were blessed by the service of Kenneth Lawrence, the current Senior Warden of St. James Episcopal Church. I'm not sure if I have ever read the job description for a Senior Warden, but if you are unfamiliar with the structure of an Episcopal church, The Senior Warden is something like the Chairman of the Board. Cooking 100 hot dogs and serving them for some of the youngest parishioners is not necessarily written into the job. If the Rector (senior pastor) is seen as the CEO, the senior warden works right alongside them in shaping and sharing the vision of the church.
Much like those "backwards" teachings of Jesus, when you dig a little deeper, it makes perfect sense. If the job of Senior Warden is to share the vision of the church why wouldn't that include serving in hands on capacities. If Jesus calls us to truly love God and show that love by loving other people, why wouldn't that include cooking and serving hot dogs for hungry students.
I am thankful tonight for those who would live into their calling in unexpected ways. I am thankful for a church who champions young people, and I am thankful for the example set by the leadership here at St. James.
May we all find ways to serve unexpectedly this week.