The grace and peace of our Lord be with you. Amen
The olive trees in Jerusalem at the garden of Gethsemane were a sight to behold. I could have stood there for hours gazing at the trees with ancient trunks gnarled and knobby - dated to be nearly 1000 years old. From them new shoots were grafted. Olives hung the branches heavy. Abundant. Of great value. In these olive trees was invitation. I couldn’t help but stand in awe to ponder how the ancient and new grew together in such a way.
I am reminded of these olive trees today as I think of about the call narratives heard during Epiphany. Throughout our sacred story, God invites and the people of God respond. We are grafted into these ancient stories that contain the likes of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary…. All who echoed this “Here I am refrain” in response to God’s invitation to join the dance.
We hear of God’s invitation to both Samuel and Eli. Samuel a young fellow. Eli an elder. A relationship of mutuality unfolds between the two. Samuel needs Eli. Eli needs Samuel. Together they work out this God with us story. It’s a lovely story about small and large transitions of life, it’s about people of all ages participating meaningfully in God’s ongoing work.
There are many possibilities for us to connect with this narrative of faith. Who are the Eli’s in our midst and who are the Samuels? What story line do you connect with?
At times we are Samuel, awake with thoughts pressing on our minds and heart or with a response that comes with quick enthusiasm. One, two three times - Samuel goes to Eli with the words, Here I am for you called me. Maybe you connect with Samuel’s persistence. He persists because God persists.
At other times we are like Eli, perceiving God’s spirit moving even in the young, especially in the young like Samuel. Eli is a a bit more seasoned and slow cooked, waiting it out. I did not call you, Eli says to Samuel. Go back to sleep young man. It’s not time yet. Maybe you connect with how Eli gracefully handles the news Samuel shares.
Whether our years are but a few, many, or somewhere in the middle, it’s likely we can identify with many parts of this unfolding narrative where God invites and we respond. What I love most about this narrative is how it teaches us about intergenerational relationships. Aside from families, the church is one of the main places where meaningful relationships between generations can develop. And not just for our own good but for the sake of many.
When people of all ages are drawn into meaningful community, made to be an important part of life and work, a sense of deep belonging develops. And sense of belonging is important. For people of all ages to say, This is my home. I love this home. I love these people. These people know me by name. I know them by name. You are of utmost value to me - because you (like me) are a beloved child of God. God has first welcomed me, and now I welcome you. Intergenerational relationships have the capacity to foster a deep sense of belonging.
People of St. Matthews, I would hazard a guess that there is a long history of meaningful relationships between generations here in this place. In my few months with you, this is evident. I also see room for this to develop especially with how we raise up the young in worship. I’d like to see the young participate more during our worship time together.
I’ll tell you what I think this might looks like. I’d like you to tell me what you think this looks like.
I often encourage people to bring their children up with them as they serve. I don’t get many opportunities to do this myself. At our afternoon New Years eve service I was the lector. My 2 year old son followed me up to the lectern running by way of the ramp. For the first reading he held my hand. For the second reading I held him in my arms and he started to speak. It distracted me a little until I discovered what he was up to. He was repeating some of the words of the reading - Matthew 25. When you welcome the least of these, you welcome Jesus. Did that ever hit home for me.
There are many ways we can further encourage relationships between the young and elders in our midst. During worship, I encourage you to have a young one stand beside you while serving, as ushers or acolytes even as you serve the wine. Together you might find yourselves saying, The blood of Christ shed for you.
This type of side by side serving often starts with a parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle or godparent or Sunday school teacher. When intergeneration ministry really begins to flourish this happens with family who is not just related by bloodlines. Family broadens and so do these life-giving relationships of mutuality between generations. We live into the adage: It takes a village to raise a child.
Communities and people are strengthened when the young and old interact. When names are known. When wisdom reaches deep giving us roots. When innocence and wonder wash over us and refresh. When giggles lighten the load and put life back into perspective. When the way forward is a matter for all. In this narrative I hear an important invitation to delve more deeply and fully into life giving relationships between generations.
Dear brothers and sisters, as we know God’s invitation is not a one time occurrence. Over and over we are called to join and rejoin the dance when we lose rhythm or step on toes. Side by side, God invites both the elders and young, to be agents of grace and forgiveness when life gets a little messy, to be bearers of light in the darkness, to be vessels of love and to offer a generosity of spirit even in the face of fear. In so doing, we respond with the great, Here I am. Only because the great, I am who I am, first called called and claimed us as God’s own. Grafting us into God’s own image, so that together we may bear an abundant harvest..