Sermon for 12/3/17: Waking Up to Youth in the Church

Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37

Liturgical calendar constructed by middle school youth

Liturgical calendar constructed by middle school youth

Upon Further Reflection

The crisis of young people in the church -- That’s what I addressed on Sunday – a crisis that has been dogging us for a couple generations: why don’t they stay?  This is question for the whole ELCA, not just little ole Bethel.

I want to leave here some of the powerful quotes from Sunday.  They are ones that informed my sermon or spoke to me while I was leading worship.  This is one of the most important sermons I have preached about ministry at Bethel.  If you are someone who feels attached to an idea of what church is or has to be in order for worship to feel like worship, then I encourage you to let the words of scripture and sermon dwell in you for a while.  They were hard words no doubt for some of you, but very hopeful ones too.  And that’s what we are called to cling with our hearts – to hope.

By Michael Warren

“[Confirmation] efforts that are failing are those that reduce young people to the status of consumers, accepting doctrinal ‘capital’ on a ‘handout’ basis and putting it to good use.”

“The stumbling block to full participation of the young in the church is that they are invited to participate in the reproduction of religious meaning but not the true, original production of that meaning.”

From the Bible

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come….”  Mark 13:35

From Marty Haugen

“Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night,                                                                                  though dark the winter and cheerless,                                                                                          the rising sun shall crown you with light,                                                                                        be strong and loving and fearless.                                                                                                Love be our song and love our prayer                                                                                         and love our endless story;                                                                                                            may God fill every day we share                                                                                                      and bring us at last into glory.”

      In Awake, Awake and Greet the New Morn

Sermon Notes

Quotes on confirmation come from Warren, Michael (1991). "Youth, Cultural Agency, and the Confirming of the Church's Commitment." Word and World (Volume XL) 4, pg.396-403.

Sermon for 1/17/2016: Why We REALLY Don't Invite People To Church

John 2:1-12 and Mark 1:21-28

Suggested Scripture Readings from Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking.

Welcoming the Rain                                                                         Cambria 2016

Welcoming the Rain                                                                         Cambria 2016

Sermon Notes

Before getting into the material of the formal sermon this week, I offer the videos we viewed in worship updating us on the work of the ELCA (our denominational body) in its campaign to end malaria with our global partners.  Five years ago, our denomination had a goal of raising 15 million dollars.  See these stories and hear where we stand today in those efforts.


This week we continue our wander through questions of invitation: why do we and don't we invite people to our faith communities? Do we hide our connection to God from others?  It occurred to me while preaching that the real issue is far larger than church.  If you are a person who has a practice of hospitality in your "regular" life, you probably will for church as well.  The opposite applies: if you are person who is private or needs quiet or has barriers to hospitality and invitation in your "regular" life, you probably will for church as well.  I pose a lot of possibilities in this sermon.  I'm curious: consider the following:


What motivates you or prohibits you from inviting people into church and your faith life?  

Post your comments here!!


This Week's Sermon: The E Word

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, 4:1-30, 5:1-11

Suggested Scripture Readings from Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking with my own additions.

Sermon Notes
Thank you for having me as your guest last weekend, St. Mary's Episcopal Church of Barnstable, Massachusetts. Although in my sermon, I poke fun at the caricatures of our denominations, I was so glad to be with you for a morning, anonymous and nurtured.  

I used A Shy Person's Guide to the Practice of Evangelism as inspiration for this week's message.  It was published in 2004 by the Massachusetts Diocese of the Episcopal Church.  Want your own copy?  Click here.

My reflections on Christian community are drawn in part from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classical work,  Life Together.  Click to link.