“From Generation To Generation”
Pentecost 21A, Proper 25 – October 29, 2017
Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Ps 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46.
Generations are generally described as approximate 20-year blocks of time – roughly the amount of time it takes to reach adulthood. It is not an exact definition.
So, in our congregation we still have people from the “Greatest Generation”. The WWII and Korean War people. Deacon Betty is an example. Then, there are the Baby Boomers – 1946-1964. This is the Viet Nam War generation, the ones beginning to retire in huge numbers and threatening the Social Security System. I am a Baby Boomer and will be retiring early next year.
Following us are Generation X, those of you in your late thirties to early fifties. Desert Storm began your war experiences. My oldest son was in Desert Storm. You are the parents of many of our youth. You are coming into your prime in leadership in the culture and the church. Howard & Kat MacCalla are examples.
Gen Y is a very loosely defined generation extending anywhere from the mid-‘70’s to the early 2000’s. This generation has borne the brunt of the fighting in the War on Terror. Following them are the infamous Millennials. In many ways the Millennial generation and Gen Y overlap and are the same generation. 9-11 greatly affected them. They have been living at war or in an economic depression most of their adult lives. They are our most socially accepting generation, split politically between Conservative and Progressive; many are spiritually minded but religiously unattached. Most social scientists agree that the Gen Y/Millennial generation’s definition ends in 2004.
So, that leaves the generation that begins roughly in 2004. These are the youth and children of our families and our church. These are the youth we are here to recognize and celebrate with today.
Verse one in today’s Psalm reads: “Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.” One of the greatest responsibilities people of faith have is to pass that faith to the next generation. It involves intentionally teaching the elements of the faith, and in our religion, helping the next generation establish their own relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
That Is a Sacred Responsibility.
So, how has Holy Cross done in bringing the next generation to Christ? Here is one example: Howard MacCalla grew up in this church. His parents were part of that first generation that established this congregation and began to grow Holy Cross. That process began 47 years ago – 45 years at this address. When I came here nine years ago, I met Howard’s mother, Betty – a lovely woman. She raised her children in this church, buried her husband through this church, and was in charge of the Altar Guild when I arrived.
Betty was a first-generation member of this church, Howard a second generation. Now Howard and Kat’s children – Buster, Skylar and Piper, are the third generation. That’s pretty neat. They are still growing up; still being shaped by God, their parents, this church, and our culture into who they will become as adults.
There is a sense that we raise our children in and by faith, trusting in God to get them to the Promised Land because we are likely not going to see them get there. That was true with Buster and Betty MacCalla. They would have loved to see this day: Howard and Kat and their three children sitting in church on a day to celebrate our Youth, and the promise of another generation following the Lord.
I have three things I am thankful for that we’ve been able to accomplish these past nine years:
1. We are still here! We’re alive! As Jeff Miars says: “We’re alive and taking nourishment”. From 32 people, no children, no youth, no young adults to a totally different congregation today. I thank God and every pioneer who paved the way for today. We are a much different congregation today, and now have more of the problems that churches with families have – like when there is a Scout campout, our attendance plunges. Oh, Well!
2. I can, in a spirit of thanksgiving to God, report that the Holy Cross Church nine years ago had every opportunity to become a bitter, angry congregation. Instead, with God’s Spirit, Fr. John, and good spiritual leadership in the church, we are a loving, generous, grace-filled, fun loving body well representing Jesus Christ. We are a nurturing, non-judgmental body of believers who live out Jesus’ words on the Cross: “Father, forgive them/him/her. They do not know what they are doing.” There is much grace, love, and acceptance here at Holy Cross. Much opportunity to grow in Faith, Grace, and Love.
3. We are already leaning into the 4th generation of this church’s existence. There are babies amongst us. These youth are our 3rd generation. They will contend for Christ in their generation, so we are rightly investing much in them. If we don’t help them connect with Jesus on a personal level they will become part of the Gen Y/Millennial generation that is spiritually minded but have no focus on what that means. They are fodder for any organized religious system that comes along with a plan of discipline and says, “we know the way to God.”
Christianity’s strength and weakness is the freedom God gives and respects. God allows us to think and choose – even to the point of walking away from God and His ways. In our freedom we can have as much or as little of God as we want in our lives. No other religious system allows that much freedom of choice. We must teach our children that
With Great Freedom, Comes Great Responsibility –
whether in our relationship with God or our freedoms as Americans. God wants us to learn to trust His will and ways to live and we do that through choice. God said to Israel during the Exodus: “19Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curses. Now, choose life! Then you and your children may live. 20 To choose life is to love the LORD your God, obey him, and stay close to him. He is your life, …” (Deut. 30:19-20, NCV).
Loving God is a commandment that we either chose to obey or not. In today’s Gospel lesson we learn that, “Loving the lord our God with all of our heart and with all or our soul and with all of our mind; and loving our neighbor as our self” is the Greatest Commandment (Mt.22:38-39). This, we are trying to teach our children, is the choice that makes all the difference in life. It shapes every decision we make from that time forward. It changes how we spend our money, how we treat each other, how often we practice forgiveness and how frequently we come together to worship God and fellowship with one another. We fall in love with our spouse and then we choose to live together in a faithful relationship. The same is true in our relationship with God.
I see your growth in these areas. There is evidence that you are trusting God with the priorities of how you spend your money. More of you are answering God’s leading to begin tithing your income. Your giving to various mission projects that help others; your funding the replacement of our roof, and the repairs that will have to be made to our window wall and our Administrative Building are clear examples of those choices.
Many of you are making the difficult struggle in forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you. You are discovering that forgiveness is not a single event. It is a process of healing for YOUR soul. In your giving for others, and in learning to forgive you are also learning that God’s ways – though sometimes difficult – result in increased peace and a better life.
By-the-way: In your commitments to give to our Camp Scholarship Fund you are providing these youth with an environment and opportunity to experience God and choose to love and live for Him. For the second year in a row, Holy Cross has lead the entire Diocese in the number of children and youth attending Summer Camp. You deserve to be thanked and congratulated. Job well done!
These are the kinds of lessons that must be passed on from generation to generation if they are to survive in a world that is oriented toward selfishness, not sacrifice. America was founded with such a relationship with God assumed to be the foundation stone of our dwelling. Our founders dared grant us the right of free speech in a world where no other nation’s people had that right to criticize their government. They believed we could handle it; that we would speak critically to power and neighbor out of love, not hatred, because we would also adhere to a greater commitment to treat each other the way we would want others to treat us – Jesus’ Golden Rule. That is a principle that we must choose to live by. Nobody can order us to obey it.
So, we practice good stewardship of our time, our talent, and our treasure out of choice not command; and in doing such, we teach the next generation how to live a better life: one of loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves.
Well done, Holy Cross Church!