I saw God. Yes, you read that correctly. Sunday April 8th I witnessed God working miracles in a community I’m part of, Wyoming, Ohio. It was a normal Sunday, typical for many a priest. I held two worship services; I preached at the early service and led a Taize-inspired worship at the later service. I was part of a music rehearsal between the services to get ready for the later worship. After our 10:00 worship there was coffee hour, and then I led a worship commission meeting. Following a fast slice of leftover pizza I took communion to an ill parishioner and his wife. After all of the above I came home to find that my spouse was out walking the dog, and my boys were at an end of the school year celebration for one of their extracurricular activities. With the quiet victorian home all to myself, I took advantage and laid down for a nap. My sleep was so hard that I overslept my alarm. Thankfully, I awoke in time to throw my collar back on and attend the next church event of the day.
I shot out of bed, collared up, and walked to the neighborhood Presbyterian Church where I saw God’s hope brightly shining. I met with roughly twenty plus middle and high school students. Most students were from Wyoming, but a few were from neighboring communities. In addition to all of the students, there were about ten adults present to be tangible signs of support for the gathered students. Two of the adults present are the grandparents of one of the children murdered in Parkland, Florida.
The purpose of this Sunday afternoon gathering in the basement of a Presbyterian Church was for the youth to express ways they want to move forward with the march to put an end to gun violence. I realize there are adults who don’t want anything to do with talking about gun violence because to do so would be to acknowledge that our society, indeed, our country, has a problem with guns. And then, one can quickly chase down the rabbit hole of “he said/she said” in our current political climate, and we all know how heated that conversation gets. Thankfully, there are many adults who want to support our youth.
This group of thirty some people met to listen to one another, to support each other, and it was beautiful to watch unfold. Part of the Godly action witnessed was that the meeting was entirely youth-led. The adults offered the space, some delicious pizza, and our listening ears, but the youth led the meeting. In fact, two of the youth who I attend my neighborhood Episcopal Church were integral in the running of the meeting. One of those youth clearly led the meeting, and the other youth provided helpful feedback as they recalled how to best run a listening process that was taught and facilitated at our parish last year. These youth, and all of those gathered, listened to one another that afternoon. I waited to hear groans from folks as one of the youth suggested breakout groups for smaller group conversation, but I never heard any complaining or groaning (and, my hearing isn’t that bad off yet).
The youth left with a plan and a time to gather again, and that is their story to tell. I walked out of that stone church with my heart full of hope as Jesus appeared to me that Sunday not only in the breaking of the bread, in listening to Holy Scriptures being read, in different-minded people gathering for coffee hour, in ways of worship being discussed with civility, in meeting with parishioners to see their new home and share communion, in a luxurious nap without a feeling of guilt since other family were occupied, but I saw the face of Jesus as I witnessed our youth leading with respect for one another. In fact, one of the youth (another parishioner of mine) shared about our need to respect the other side of the gun violence issue.
I walked out of that church basement and into the light of a beautiful spring afternoon. Making our way back home, my wife and I heard sounds of joy from down the block as at least thirty other middle to high school aged youth listened to music at a neighbor’s home, eventually going inside to learn about “Young Life,” another ministry for youth to learn about Jesus’ love and witness in their daily living. My spouse and I stopped in to say hello and pick up a flier for our boys. As the two of us walked back toward our home I thought about an interview I have scheduled with a candidate for youth ministry at our church, and my heart smiled.
I know there is evil in the world. I do not have any doubts of its existence. I see and hear “breaking” news on a daily basis that causes me to shudder in despair. But, but there is light. There is a light greater than any darkness evil can cast. I know that Light because I know who God is, and I know that I am one of God’s precious children. I am so fully human, and I have my days when the darkness gets the better of me, but Sunday April 8th I lived in the light. I saw God.