To Such as These

The following is the outline I used for the sermon preached on August 14th, 2011 at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Richmond, KY.

Sermon Audio can be found here or on the FCC sermon page.
Scriptures:  Isaiah 40:27-31; 1 Timothy 4:12; Mark 10:13-16; 1 Peter2:2

A child is a curly dimpled lunatic. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Children aren’t happy without something to ignore, And that’s what parents were created for. – Ogden Nash

A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it. – Jerry Seinfeld

When the boy is growing he has a wolf in his belly.  ~German Proverb

In the time it takes you to understand a 14-year-old, he turns 15.  ~Robert Brault

Adolescence is a period of rapid changes.  Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.

Teenagers complain there’s nothing to do, then stay out all night doing it.

You can tell a child is growing up when he stops asking where he came from and starts refusing to tell where he is going.

Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life.  ~Yiddish Proverb

These are not the only stories or ideas or images we have to understand and imagine what it means to be a young person.

There are other images:  images of youthful beauty, images of innocence.  There are images of aggression, naivete, ignorance and more.

There is a complex mess of images that circulate; these are part of our “social imaginary”

  • Charles Taylor, Social Imaginary– the way ordinary people “imagine” their social surroundings, and this is often not expressed in theoretical terms, it is carried in images, stories, legends shared by large groups of people which leads to a common understanding. (see Charles Taylor, On Social Imaginary)
  • Images of who youth are shapes our sense of what it means to be a young person in this day and age.

With all the images of youth that circulate in our social imaginary, there are two extremes that many images drift towards…


1)       Utopian images of youth—romanticizing it as a golden age of bliss, fundamentally perfect

Youth are beautiful, energetic, care-free, no major responsibilities, youth delight in everything and see the world with innocence; youth don’t know the devastation of disappointment or the pain of loss

This extreme fails to take the experience of young people seriously—it  fails to take the complexity of the biblical witness seriously

Scriptural image from Isaiah “For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall”

Image is a helpful reminder, a corrective that life really isn’t all sunshine and gumdrops as a young person…   youth have real needs, real emotions, real pain, real suffering, real hurt, real hopes, real dreams, real demands and responsibilities

The “real world” – implies that the experiences of children are somehow less real

Youth don’t exist in the “fake world” as if the adult, working world is somehow the “real world”

2)      Distopian images of youth—an emotional/psychological mess that is impossible to understand or connect to… fundamentally screwed-up

Youth are crazy, hormonal; they have infinite energy that is primarily directed toward sex and violence; they are unable to communicate; they are wild, untamed

Religious spin:  Jonathon Edwards, children are “infinitely more hateful than vipers”

This extreme fails to take the experience of young people seriously—it  fails to take the complexity of the biblical witness seriously

Image of a bold, loving, spiritual young person in Timothy—Paul commends the faithfulness of Timothy:  “let no one despise you because you are young”

Images that tend toward these extremes lead us into unhelpful ways of understanding and relating to youth.

Church approaches to youth

  1. Youth need to be protected and kept safe
    1. Maintain their innocence
    2. Does not engage the questions, concerns, messiness of youthful life
    3. Keep them safe and look at them fondly
  2. Youth need to be bent into shape
    1. Disciplined:  wills need to be broken and purified from evil
    2. No room to learn from youth—they have nothing to teach us

Our question today, one we should not hesitate to ask as church, is what might it mean to be a young person when we see through the lens of faith and consider the biblical witness?

I want to suggest that we imagine the meaning and value of young people with a biblical image and a biblical story:

  1. Youth, like newborn babies, are crying out for pure spiritual milkKendra Creasy Dean writes, “Youth look to the church to show them something — Someone — capable of turning their lives inside out and the world upside down. Most of the time we have offered them pizza.”

    This image suggests that youth have real needs, real spiritual needs that we, the church, should take seriously and address.  Youth don’t need to be entertained, they need to be encountered for who they are and encouraged to drink spiritual milk as they grow.Which is why we are inviting you, the youth of this church, into a spiritual space and a spirit-driven ministryYOU ARE INVITED TO
  • Deepen your relationship with one another
  • Deepen your relationship with us
  • Deepen your relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  • To question, wonder, learn, grow, seek, serve, bless, heal, hope, love
  • To encounter the living God
  • To experience the fullness of life that is available to you now

We want to share life with you, encourage you, build you up, strengthen you, care for you, show you meaning and purpose

2.  Mark 10:   Children come to Jesus

Youth open up the Kingdom of God for us

Youth have something to teach us

Youth can show us Jesus—for it was a newborn infant, as much as a man, who was and is the Christ.  Jesus’ whole life was the incarnation of God; yes, even his pubescent life sorely missed from the gospel accounts.

If youth can be a window into the Kingdom of heaven, even the very embodiment of Jesus Christ, then maybe we should look on them with new eyes—how can they teach us?

Enact story of Olive/Dwayne in Little Miss Sunshine

It is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs… Amen.


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