"[Christians] do not merely live under the promise, which could be said of all men [and women]. They live in and with and by the promise. They seize it. They apprehend it. They conform themselves to it. And therefore in their present life they live as those who belong to the future."
---Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV, p. 120
As the youth ministry's spring calendar begins to draw to a close and yet another senior class is about to graduate and move on to exciting new chapters, I thought I would write up a few "living hopes" for the Class of 2012. These hopes are framed in light of both Barth's announcement above and 1 Peter 1:3-9. They are prayer-filled invitations not to leave their faith in high school, but to seize and conform all the more to it as God calls them to new places and fresh opportunities to be God's people in the world.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
---1 Peter 1:3ff, NRSV
10 Living Hopes for Class of 2012:
Calling > Career: "Life is more than money...Life is more than hundred dollar bills" (Switchfoot, "Gone"). Yet, when I ask students about their dreams, many times responses revolve around a good job and the quest to make money per American dream. Is that all there is? At a conference a few years ago I heard someone say "your vocation is not what you do to get paid; it is how you live into the conviction that God is love." So, what's your vocation? How will God call you to live out this conviction? What kind of teacher, lawyer, preacher, or peacemaker will you be? How will you love God and neighbor as a doctor, engineer, graphic artist, or mechanic? What kind of new business venture can you start that benefits the poor and oppressed, maybe even lobbies for justice in an oppressive context domestically or globally? Look for God's calling, not just a career. [See video below]
Be Creative. Be Amazed. One of the most beautiful ways to understand God is as Creator. We, too, are called to be creators. Each of us has gifts, talents, and something to offer the world as we live into the new creation already here and yet-to-come. Look for opportunities to create beauty out of devastation, light out of darkness, and hope out of despair. Color outside the lines and live life outside the box. Take risks. Refuse to settle for the same old same old; allow God to lead you towards innovative and fresh expressions of the new life found as a disciple of Jesus. Even more, refuse to allow anything or anyone to rob you of your sense of wonder and awe in regards to the simplest and most audacious evidence of God's love at work in, around, and through you.
Remember God's special concern for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. Jesus said the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Mark 10:31). The Son of God underscored and incarnated an upside-down kingdom whereby those often excluded, offended, forgotten, abused, and oppressed are considered blessed, honored, and beloved children of God (Mt. 5). As a disciple of Jesus and pilgrims on The Way, be sure to extend welcome, live in solidarity, and work towards the liberation of the world's most vulnerable citizens. This may be unpopular, risky, and against the grain of a culture that says blessed are the rich and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, but it is no less The Way of Jesus.
Remember the Sabbath: We live in a hurried culture that leaves little to no room for a rhythm of rest. The temptation is to be lured into this ridiculous pace and oppressive pattern, a race to nowhere, only to be left drained of all life and robbed of all sense of joy. You cannot do it all. You do not need to do it all. The world does not revolve around you, nor does it depend solely on you. Learn to say no to things. Take a regular day off to rest, to play, to pray, and to laugh. After all, Jesus did (Mk 1:35).
Birds Will Land On Your Head; They Don't Have to Build Nests : I heard this on a mission trip to Mexico in high school. The gist was this: you cannot always control circumstances and experiences, but you can refuse them residency in your heart and life. When sufferings, trials, and tribulations come, and they will, know that God is with you in and through them all; God will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). Still more, look for redemptive moments when God may use the most horrific of experiences to share the good news with another. This is the power of the resurrection!
Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus: We live in a world that demands so much from us and then the moment we mess up, show signs of slowing down, or fail to live up to exceedingly high expectations we are cast to the wind and replaced like yesterday's news. Yet the gospel is quite different. We are reminded that no hardship or employer, no persecution or final exam, no famine or resume, no harsh word or violent act, no roommate or season of doubt, no screw up or financial difficulty, nothing in all of creation can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:18-39).
Inward-Outward Journey: Spiritual formation is vital. It is easy to be caught up in tasks and schedules that we neglect the nourishment of prayer and meditation, especially as guided by regular reading of Scripture. Pursue opportunities to journey inward as a disciple, even alongside others. However, be reminded that we are only formed inwardly so to journey outwardly as we live into the dreams of God for us and the whole world. The moment we cease missional living, we have turned spiritual formation into the most oppressive of idols.
On Earth As In Heaven: Live a life that demonstrates to the world that you indeed belong, heart, mind, and body, to the one who created and called you. One of my favorite declarations in our faith tradition is, "The church of Jesus Christ is the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all of humanity." (PCUSA Book of Order, G- 3.0200). This is true of both the collective whole and the individual member of Christ's body. May all that you say and do be a reflection of The Way of Jesus and the kingdom of God already here and yet-to-come. Refrain from checking your faith and discipleship at the youth ministry, church, or Bible study door. Instead, live an "on earth as it is in heaven" life- 24/7/365.
Community Connection. You cannot do life alone. Wherever God sends you, latch onto a community of faith and collection of disciples called the church. Be sure this community is made up of people not only like you, but also and especially different from you. Cross generational, economic, and racial divides and encounter the work of the Spirit in multicultural expressions of the kingdom. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Get connected and serve alongside God's people near and far as a reminder that we journey and engage in the dreams of God together. If there isn't a faith community where you are- start one!
Imago Dei: Finally, the great declaration of our youth ministry is that from the very beginning God created humanity in the image of God (Genesis 1:27-28). There is no other identity, no cultural trend, no test score, resume, slander, offense, or purchased image that can trump or take away imago Dei. Still more, you are not the only imago Dei; all of humanity shares this common reflection of the divine. Expose it, I dare you to uncover it, in neighbors, friends, and enemies near and far, reminded that in Jesus we see the fullest portrait of the imago Dei (Colossians 1:15-20). May you follow this Jesus today, tomorrow, and everyday thereafter, as a beautiful reflection of God's love and grace. You have indeed been called co-laborers and covenant partners  with God in anticipation of the day when God will make all things and all people new and right again!
Grace and Peace Class of 2012...and all the gathered and scattered people of God!
Vocation 101: What Do You Mean by Vocation? from FTE on Vimeo.
 This quote is often attributed to Martin Luther.
 Another great Karl Barth-ism, when referencing God's work of reconciliation, is "covenant-partner" (e.g. Church Dogmatics IV, p. 89).