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“O Lord, how shall I meet you…”


The congregation I serve had a group of nine young people and two adults in attendance at last week’s ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. They rolled into the parking lot here at about 10:30pm last night…bubbling over with that precious combination of joy and laughter and exhaustion which those events produce. How great it was to hear their stories and to see them hug each other as they finally split up and left for home. And thanks be to God, not only for safe travels and a lot of fun, but mostly for the seed of transformational faith that has been sown in each of them.

But now, of course, they are home. And things will probably be different. I don’t know about the congregation you’re a part of, but we don’t normally worship 35,000 each Sunday…in a huge dome…with a band led by Jimmy Buffet’s guitar player. The usual preacher is not tattooed; he’s not (I hate to admit it) very hip at all. The folks around them will not know Switchfoot from their left foot, and probably won’t hold up their phones or other mobile devices while singing “This Little Light of Mine.” It just wouldn’t occur to them.

So the homes to which they return can’t replicate the experience. That’s just the truth. But, if we are smart and faithful, we will figure out way to receive the experience from them…to value what they have learned and done over the past five days, to engage their stories and insights, and to allow them to have an effect on the joy and laughter and exhaustion that is ministry right here amidst the corn and tomato fields.

“O Lord, how shall I meet you; how welcome you aright?” For some reason, that Advent hymn (probably not a part of the Gathering’s songbook) was running through my head last evening as we welcomed our travelers home. And why not? In our young people, do we not see Christ at work? And, having been shaped by their experience, how does that Christ come to us in them? What word of Good News does He have to share via their enthusiasm and their experience? And how will we let that Good News speak to us? How might it re-shape and re-form the local ministries of which our kids are such a vital part?

The beginning of the Good News is this: Christ comes to us…wearing cargo shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. It is for the good of the whole church that we listen carefully and engage honestly our young peoples’ experience of the faith. We need their questions, their energy, and their hopes. Pray that we receive them…that we receive Him in them…faithfully and well.


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