Remember I promised to talk about Missionpolooza? Well, since the kids are starting back to school, here it is!
Missionpolooza is a 5 day long experience for high-schoolers in Missouri to come and experience outreach work in the heart of Kansas City. Every year, approximately 50 teenagers camp out on my church floor, and head off each morning at 7am to different worksites around the city: our food pantry, Habitat for Humanity, Operation Breakthrough, etc. Then, they come back at day’s end and process what they’ve been doing, in the context of the Christian life.
My job, this year, was to take care of the 5 kids that had been selected to offer the sermon on the last day. I greatly enjoy this job–last year, my rector and I took the selected kids to lunch at Hamburger Mary’s, thinking that all sermons should start with some quality real work experience. This year, my rector was on vacation, so I alone took the youth to lunch. (at the Ale House. Their parents probably consider Kansas City the den of all iniquity now.)
(The rector being gone also meant the plumbing backed up at least twice, and two parishioners died. As is the way of things.)
Anyway. Preaching is hard, as I believe I have mentioned here before. Harder still if you haven’t heard many sermons, or if you’re a teenager and terrified of public speaking, or worried about what your peers will say, or if you’ve spent the last 13 years in a school system that teaches you only one way to write.
The youth were great–they asked me tons of questions, and I tried to answer as best I could. We sat around all afternoon, and I worked on and off while they tried to write, and asked me even more questions.
I told them that a sermon is like an airplane: you need to take off, have one destination, and land. Up, across, down.
There may have been a time, twenty years ago when people could stand longer airplane rides, with layovers in different towns to see the sights. This time is no longer. Fly your plane, and get to where you’re going.
Don’t swoop to the side to see the Grand Canyon when you’ve talked about going to Europe, and don’t say you’re going to Los Angeles and end up in London. This will only upset and confuse your passengers, which is bad, because you need them to trust you as the pilot. If your passengers don’t trust you, they will never fly your airline again. They will grab their parachutes and jump off.
Make sure, when you’re taking off, that you know where you’re going to land. THEN LAND. Don’t circle the airport for hours, waiting for the FAA to give you permission–just land the plane.
This airplane metaphor got a LOT of mileage. (No pun intended.) Jokes about crashing, landing the plane, being the Malaysian Airlines of preaching were thick on the ground.
But after much wringing of hands, each and every one of those students gave deep and insightful sermons on Sunday. So apparently we have some fantastic pilots in training!
I should add that the OTHER thing that happened, presumably because the rector was on vacation–was that I got a phone call at home on 8pm on Saturday night from the youth leader. She started by asking how I was (never comforting. This means that whatever is coming next is going to be upsetting, and they want to ensure you aren’t already upset.)
She then informed me that a group of “homeless, travelling Lutherans had stopped by the night, and could we put them up for the night?”
I decided to head back over there.
Upon my arrival, I discovered a van full of ELCA teenagers and their erstwhile leader looking disheveled in my parking lot. Apparently, they had driven that day from Wisconsin, with the understanding that they could stay at a local ELCA church in Kansas City. But when they got there, there was no one around. They called the pastor–no answer. They then decided just to drive around town, and see if they could find a place. (Kids, don’t try this.) When they saw our lights on, they stopped and asked for help.
I had a short conference with the other youth leaders–we had space to spare, and could easily segregate boys, girls, and adults all one from another….not to mention we had lots of extra food, and a Guardians of the Galaxy blu-ray that needed watching. So I invited them to stay. We fed them, we gave them a lovely floor for the night, and we watched alien movies with them. As our Lord doth command.
Our scripture for the week had been Matthew 25, and over and over I had been telling the students to focus on the people they met as reflections of God.
Who apparently sometimes rolls up in your parking lot at 8pm from Wisconsin.