We hear “God is doing a new thing!” in Isaiah 43:19 and wonder how our world can be as new as it was in the days before Jesus. We talk about “a new heaven and a new earth” in Revelation 21 and wonder what that looks like for us. This Sunday, September 18 we continue in Genesis with the Abram and Sarai story as we restart the Narrative Lectionary for fall 2022. God sent this couple to live in a new land and promised that they would be prosperous if they followed God. Last week we touched on the Noah’s Ark story with all of its colorful animal and boat imagery and the tragic effects of a giant flood. People all over the world are dealing with life-threatening flooding, so these stories are current and relatable. Our children live in a new world compared to that experienced by their parents.
Even if children and youth are experiencing new technology and social climate, they still have to respond to the threats that human society has always presented. Children and youth have Airpods where we had Walkman headphones. “The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that a billion young people worldwide could be at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. Over 43 million people between the ages of 12–35 years live with disabling hearing loss due to different causes. Among teenagers and young adults aged 12–35 years in the middle- and high-income countries: Nearly 50% are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices. Around 40% are exposed to potentially damaging sound levels at clubs, discotheques, and bars.” This sounds like nothing new as we parents experienced loud dances, clubs, earbuds etc. More people around the world have access to this technology, so hearing loss is happening on a larger, global scale. Children and youth have videos in their hand where we accessed them on our TV whenever we could pop a VHS or DVD into the video player. Schools are requiring that students put their phones away in locked pouches, so that students can play games, talk, and focus. Children and youth experience active shooter drills and our parents went through “duck-and-cover drills” in case of an atomic attack. How do we talk with our children about a new heaven and a new earth while violence, racism, economic disparity, and human trafficking still exist? How are we, as parents and safe adults, challenged to empathetically listen to the fears and concerns of our children and youth, while asking them about their hopes and dreams? How can we show our values through action and invite children and youth to come along with us or lead the charge? When do we know that a service project or leadership initiative “isn’t meant for us” if it is more about our group’s ego than the group of people with whom we are connecting? We have learned to live in new ways and return to life-giving practices despite a pandemic and staying at home. How can we be the church for each other and give each other our hope and life-giving practices, now?
I struggle as a parent, teacher, and adult to watch how “being the intergenerational church” has become a lower priority for families over the past twenty years. I see families driven consciously or subconsciously to prioritize activities that appear to quantitatively build their child’s success and eligibility for college or independent living. Quantitative experiences such as competitive sports, music groups, Model UN, and debate take priority over less quantitative experiences such as developing church friendships over time and serving the community’s needs. I get it. I am in the same boat and have chosen to live in an expensive city where in-demand activities have an urgency and scarcity about them. A gap year or college education are expensive, so parents know that kids need to be prepared to work. Children and youth also need to be able to relax, be creative during times of boredom, and nurture their mental, spiritual, and social health. A friend just moved to the Sierras and is floored by the laid-back welcome of children’s classes and activities. She is feeling the abundance of access to good activities, as well as access to a school bus. She said that it is “Kansas-nice” there compared to the rushed atmosphere she experienced living many years in San Francisco. There could be less cultural and economic diversity there in comparison to that in the Bay Area.
We know that systems drive our fears and actions. Student debt, school tuition, climate change, expensive housing, and an unbalanced cost of living effect our families. We know that our children will face these challenges in the future. What if we saw church as a safe place where we connected on doing actions to break systems that oppress us? What if we could work together to counter actions that contribute to disparity of wealth, systemic poverty, and erasure of people who are not white or heteronormative? We can’t do this alone. Calvary’s staff is here to facilitate, but cannot carry out community that congregants and community partners create. Check out what values Calvary has built into our mission statement. What resonates with you?
Nurturing & Inspiring: At Calvary Presbyterian, our mission is to nurture and inspire our faith community to transform lives for Christ. Realizing that we must ourselves be grounded in our faith and fed spiritually in order to serve others, we will: Offer study, worship, fellowship, and music experiences that grow our faith individually and communally. Hear and learn from our preachers and each other, opening ourselves to being both comforted and challenged. Provide service opportunities that enrich and deepen our faith.
Creating Community: Scripture tells us that God’s people are meant to live in community. To honor this, we will: Be an open church that is vibrant, diverse, and inclusive, welcoming individuals young and old, families of all types, people at all stages and conditions of life. Provide a caring and supportive environment, welcoming, affirming and embracing everyone in love. Value the traditions of our denomination and honor Calvary’s rich history of leadership in our community – and respond when God calls us in new ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Transforming Lives for Christ: Knowing that we are called to live our faith in word and action, and in ways that reach those both inside and outside our community, we will: Love and support each other as brothers and sisters in Christ within the Calvary community while also creating opportunities to show God’s love beyond our walls. Focus our mission work on breaking cycles of poverty, using our time, talent, and treasure to extend our impact. Prayerfully engage in the issues facing our city, nation, and the world in ways that are faithful to the biblical call to do justice and love mercy.
Selfless Love (agape): We are called to show God’s love for the world and to manifest agape love – a deep and selfless commitment to the well-being of others. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
Spiritual Depth: We actively seek to understand scripture and its meaning in our lives today, working to grow in our faith and relationship with God. Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Inclusivity: We are all children of God. We proclaim that all are one family in Christ and seek to live like we mean it. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Justice: We challenge ourselves to see systems and structures that disadvantage and oppress others – that stand in the way of God’s kingdom coming “on earth as it is in heaven,” and are willing to take part in seeking solutions. God has told you, O Mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8