To raise money for their mission trips, our youth do yard work and other odd jobs for donations. While not my favorite way to spend a Saturday morning or a summer afternoon, nor our most lucrative effort, the jobs raise a good chunk of money, making them hard to turn down. Recently, I have noticed another benefit.
This Saturday a group of five youth, two middle school and three high school, raked the yard of a family in our congregation. I took the opportunity to watch the interactions of the youth who did not all know one another well. I wanted to see how they would work together this day and during the mission trip. I was surprised to find that in addition to working well together, there was significant interaction between the youth and this empty-nester couple. I observed one of the middle school youth and the female homeowner chatting as they raked and bagged pine needles – the woman holding the bag while the young man filled it. I listened over lunch as our youth were told stories of what people the age of their grandparents had experienced as youth in the church and youth group. I also heard them tell stories of previous mission trips they had attended and what they meant to them. I watched the youth go to the den and see the models built by the male homeowner, and listen to his adventures of military life. Connections were happening among people who on the surface had nothing in common. They see each other in church every Sunday, but that day they were getting to know one another.
The Apostle Paul wrote that the church is “the body of Christ,” a group of disparate parts working together to serve Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). A hand may not look much like a foot, and an ear cannot do what an eye does, but assembled by God they do amazing things together. When the people called the church function at our best, we too become greater than the sum of our parts.
Youth and senior adults who have nothing much in common except a love of Jesus were brought together on Saturday. People who recognize that regardless of age and experience we are all just “brothers from other mothers,” or as I have seen one of our youth post on Facebook “sisters from different misters.” We are not the same but share a common parentage in God our Father, as Jesus addressed him.
We live in a time when many people have become expert at pointing out differences, the things that separate us. The connections found in the church are a rich, counter-cultural treasure. A great deal of distance separates many generations in many families. Children and youth may seldom see their grandparents, aunts and uncles, or anyone else older than their parents. Yet through the church we can experience the joy in sharing in the lives of those much younger or more experienced than us.
Over the years, a lot of things have changed in the church, but much of it is still the same. Those who love Jesus know that something greater binds us together, generation to generation.