Email Devotional Epiphany 5
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
It continues to be one of my favorite weekends of the year. (I have often said that if I could find someone to pay me to run retreats every weekend, I would leave parish ministry in a heartbeat. But I have not found a paying gig like that yet, so you’re still stuck with me for a while.) This year we discussed the life of Jesus using the Jesus Christ Superstar movie as a prompt. And as happens every time we use this as a retreat theme, I am surprised by the interest our kids have in the movie. Somehow they are able to ignore some of the silliness of the 1970’s, and see beyond it to the theological themes at the heart of the movie. And although the movie is more than forty years old, much of it still feels relevant to the world in which we live. As they discussed the life of Judas Iscariot, who is portrayed more as a puppet of God’s plan than an evil person acting out his dysfunction, they found themselves connecting to the passion story in a new and different way. As they watched Jesus act in ways that made him seem far more human than divine, they also found themselves struggling to reconcile the Jesus they read about in the Bible with a Jesus they encountered who was very ordinary and human at times.
It gave me pause to listen to our youth discuss the connections between the symbolism of this movie from the “seventies” and the way they look at their faith in 2017. I was impressed by the depth with which they tried to reconcile the political climate of Jerusalem with the counter cultural spirit of the Jesus movement. I was even more impressed with their ability to draw parallels to our modern world. Sometimes we think of our youth as naïve dreamers that hope for some vague, undefined, better future. I had the privilege of listening to young adults who certainly had ideals and dreams, but who also had a pretty firm grasp on the reality of the moment and some of the events in the past that have led us to this moment in time. I was encouraged.
It can be a hard thing to live in the tension of the moment. We are regularly tempted to just focus on the past and wish for the good old days. And we can hear the equally powerful siren call to embrace a future … almost any future, however poorly defined … as an alternative to the struggles of the moment. But faith lives in the tension between the two. It stands with one foot rooted in the past and another courageously walking into the future. Our youth reminded me that the challenge to stand in the maelstrom of the moment can be a holy place.
Maybe you and I can take a few moments in our prayers and reflection, and in our reading and meditations in the coming week, so as to think about what it means to be rooted in the safety of the past and the uncertainly of the future … in the static reality of the past and the evolving potential of the future. Maybe the naïve enthusiasm of our young adult members, may in fact be the kind of fresh perspective on life and faith that the world needs. And maybe we are not too old to learn a bit from them. Pray with that thought in mind, if you dare.