November Devotion: What is at stake?
Psalm 78:1-7 (lectionary text for November 9, 2014)
Throughout the Bible, scripture resonates with concern for teaching the next generation about the ways of God. In Psalm 78, the psalmist writes, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation.”
Many congregations continue to be motivated by this concern, devoting money and volunteers to Sunday school, vacation bible school, and youth ministry. What happens, though, when the children enter adulthood?
The psalmist does not specify ages, but his message seems to invite concern about all generations. The psalmist is interested in “the next generation.” That’s anyone who comes after your generation, whether you’re 80, 65, 47, or 13.
There is great concern in the church and Women of the ELCA about one supposed “generation,” a vaguely defined category of people known as “young adults.” Every congregation and group seems to want more of them. Much strategizing and agonizing goes into how to attract young adults and make them interested in the church, WELCA, a small group, Bible study, fill-in-the-blank.
The concern often leads to a focus on logistics. Do we need more youthful music in worship? Is our event at the best time for young people? Should we provide childcare? How do we publicize the retreat on social media? Do we have any young people involved in the planning? These are all great questions if the goal is to have more of a certain age group at your event.
Is that really what’s at stake, though? According to the psalm, there’s a different reason to share stories of God’s love with the next generation: “[so] that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”
What if your next planning session began with the psalmist’s concern: “How do I tell the next generations about my experience with God so that they will set their hope in God?”
The answer to this question may lead to less focus on events and more focus on relationships. The stories of God in our lives are grand and intimate, impressive and subtle. To share these stories, an invitation to lunch may be more effective than planning a luncheon. To help another woman, of any generation, to set her hope on God involves sharing your hope and hearing about her hope, and imagining together how the same God sustains them both.