WNL In a Nutshell – 10/29

Wednesday Night Live ad 2008Since stepping in as the Youth Pastor here at the First United Methodist Church in Corry, I have experienced some pretty amazing displays of God’s power, of His Spirit moving through our teens. But I think tonight just may have been the most… bold example of that yet.

Tonight, since we are two days away from Halloween, I felt a need to acknowledge that it is indeed coming. And I did not want us to get into a “Halloween vs. Christianity” debate, or become a cheesy evening filled with (virtually) useless platitudes or calls not to participate in anything that could be construed as satanic. Neither seem to really reach our crowd, so why use them? A few weeks back, with this mindset in place, I perused my bookshelves and found an excellent service in The Book of Uncommon Prayer (excellent, excellent resource). I cannot share the service in its entirety here, due to copyright reasons, but I can tell you that it was even more powerful than I had dared hope.

In short, the service revolves around the human condition of death. With Halloween around, it pops up frequently (zombies and Saw anyone?), and rarely, if at all, is it looked at from an authentic Christian perspective. So tonight we explored death in a dark, candle-lit room. There were Psalms of lament and hope read by four people alternating lines. There was soft, haunting (yet comforting) music by David Crowder and Geoff Moore interspersed. There was a passage from Job that set the tone for the evening. And sandwiched in between a dramatized reading of the King Saul’s encounter with the Witch of Endor and a reading of Ezekiel’s encounter with God in the valley of dry bones was a candle lighting ceremony. In this ceremony students (and adults alike) were encouraged to take an unlit tea light and light it using one of the four large candles already lit on the table. This candle would represent one person that they have lost and miss greatly, One person they wish that they could have one last conversation with (like Saul wanted to converse with Samuel). The point driven home was that death does not have to be the end, like Hollywood and the world say so. It can be merely a pause, and we may very well get to have those conversations with those people. Not a false hope, because we never definitively said that all those people were with Christ, but a hope that even in death the pain would be gone.

It hit two thirds of our teens right in between the eyes.

A quarter of our teens present tonight are unchurched, and came tonight as a result of our Friday Night Flood program.

And after the service was over, and teens were done sitting in the candle-lit room, I got the chance to chat with one guy who came tonight probably only because he wanted to hang with the two girls he came with. And he poured out his heart about how he was so thankful for tonight, because he got the opportunity to grieve for a good friend that he saw run over repeatedly and die in her mother’s arms 7 years ago. She was 12, he was 10. We talked about how God had sent him here tonight for this reason, and he told me that he only wished that his mom could have been here so that she might grieve as well. This hurting, unchurched, and suddenly unafraid to cry and admit his brokenness teen then informed me that he will be back next week.

I sit here typing this, and am out of words. There are more, of course. But this is sufficient. The Spirit moved in phenomenal ways tonight. I am in awe of how God works, of His divine appointments. And of His willingness to work in a period where I was fighting my own frustrations with how unprepared I felt to lead tonight.

God is big. God is God. And I am not.