This sermon was given last night, it reflects a profound hurt in the parish and what I hope is a pastoral response.
I don’t think I can do this.
I don’t think we can do this.
It’s all too much. This week started with a funeral for a dear friend to all in this parish. This week will end with another funeral for one of our youth who was killed just yesterday morning in a car accident.
Last week I buried another of our youths, Matthew.
It’s too much Lord. This parish has had enough.
Here we all are, your broken people who come to this church for healing, but today, well today is not a time of healing. Today is a day of contrition, and ashes, and sorrow.
Well, Lord, we’re already there. We’ve already got the ashes, smeared all over our souls.
Sometimes the needs of the congregation are so great that they trump just about everything else. So, with Father Paul’s blessing, I have something to say to you. I have something to say to you that I’ve never heard on an Ash Wednesday:
You are excused.
You are excused from punishing yourself.
You are excused from denying yourself. You are excused from whatever you gave up, if that helps. To quote Father Paul, “Have another cookie.”
What this church needs now is to come together. What we need to give up is our walls. We will especially give up our walls that separate us from our young people.
But you will still observe Lent, you will still get your ashes, and you will still have self-examination as our Prayer Book dictates, but this needs to be self-examination focused on your relationship to the young people in this church. You will still repent, but especially of the sin of looking through the young people of this church, of being afraid or indifferent in your approach to them. And you will fast; you will fast from not eating with them. And you will deny yourself, so that you can reach out to one of them. And above all you will pray, you will pray daily for the youth of this parish. For too long we have simply let Matt and Jillian, and the youth advisors do all the heavy lifting of raising these kids in the faith. We all promised at their baptisms to do all in our power to support these persons in their life in Christ. You promised! Now make good on that promise. For Lent, give up not making good on that promise.
And guess what? They won’t like it. If I know youth, and if I remember my own youth (which wasn’t all that long ago), the truth is they will squirm a bit, and they WILL roll their eyes. But they won’t be able to help knowing, KNOWING, that we, all of us, love them, and want nothing but the best for them. And yes, we know their names, and we know who their parents are.
So you may have your own Lenten discipline. And all the priests here want to support you in that. But for this parish, well for Lent this parish is going to get to know our young people. We will reach out to them and learn who they are and what it means to be a youngster these days. Learn them, befriend them. And although they may squirm and protest they will know that we love them.
Good Lord they will know that we love them.