Sunday, March 09, 2014

God's Good News for the Millennial Generation

         The Pew Research Center recently surveyed adult Millennials—so people between the ages of 18-33
—just to be clear your pastor is a Millennial by Pew’s definition.
         They did this survey, and found hard numbers to back up what to this point has been hearsay
—we’re a disconnected and distrustful bunch.
         We are distrustful of marriage
—only 26 percent of us are married, compared with 48% of our parents at the same age.
         We’re distrustful of political parties—about 1/2 of us are independent.
         We’re also distrustful of both religion and God… with 86% of us believing in God and only 60% identifying with a religious tradition.
         And so, today, in the face of these numbers and the anguish behind them, I wish to preach on the subject, “God’s Good News for the Millennial Generation.”
Let us pray
         “God’s Good News for the Millennial Generation.”

         I’ll start off with a small thing … one of the statistics that confused Pew, was when the Millennials interviewed were asked if they were Environmentalists, they generally said no—in stark contrast to every other generation
… but when they dug a little deeper it turned out that what previous generations considered “environmentalism” is just common sense to us.
         And there is something very basic to that—taking care of the Earth
… in fact, according to the 2nd chapter of Genesis that’s why we’re here—to keep it—keep it like the commandments are meant to be kept.
         Sometimes folk like to focus on “be fruitful and multiply” and forget this other end of things:
Keep the garden… guard the garden, for it too is holy.
         At the same time, one of the reasons Millennials are distrustful of religion, of faith—is that we feel like we’re being asked to turn off our mind, or choose between science and religion…
         And for many of my generation Science wins that argument… if I’m forced to choose between a talking snake or a polypeptide chain
Choose between Adam and Eve or Physical Anthropology
… I’m probably not going with the snake.
         That said, I’d hasten to add there are folk who are fixated on Science as trumping Religion, who have no clue how peptide bonding works or remotely understand Anthropology.

         But the good news, the news us Millenials need to hear, is we don’t have to choose between Genesis and Geology… It’s a false choice.
         A literal reading of Genesis, as the way the earth was formed and people came into being/
instead of, modern Biological and Geological findings,
has only been a popular way to read Genesis for 100 years.
         Between the years 1910 and 1915 an oil Tycoon by the name of Lyman Stewart sent out a set of essays entitled “The Fundamentals” to every Christian in America he could get an address for. These essays covered topics as diverse as The German School of interpreting scripture, Mormonism, The Atonement, and yes, Evolution and the Book of Genesis.
         The Fundamentals is where we get the term Fundamentalist and Fundamentalism. It is one of the places where a dividing line between The Faith and Modernity/ Religion and Science, were drawn.
         And as I said before, it needn’t be so.

 There are other ways of reading scripture
—for example, as a Lutheran I’d say interpreting it as Law and Gospel is a pretty good place to start
—where does it convict us of our sins?
—where does it remind us of God’s love?
Or another favorite of mine is to interpret scripture literarily (did you hear me right—literarily not literally)—meaning I take into account what type of literature the thing is…
If I read a story about why we love our partners so deeply that they feel like flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone,
or if I’m reading a poem about how God doesn’t need to act violently to create,
I’m not going to assume that piece of poetry, or that story, is a science textbook.
I wouldn’t do that any more than I’d read Emily Dickinson to determine how old the Earth is.

         Or read the Early Church Fathers, they interpret the Bible literally, spiritually, allegorically, morally, Christologically, anagogically, ecclesselogically…
         Or look today at Paul—he interprets Genesis typologically
—Adam is a type of Jesus
—a disobedient one.
         He interprets Genesis to mean Sin and Death go all the way back
—that throughout history there have been a myriad of ways we’ve sinned and brought death to our neighbor and to ourselves
—but the good news is that Jesus’ actions didn’t just wipe away a single sin,
or even each of these individual sins,
but Sin itself with a big S, the root, that’s what he went after
—God’s grace, which Christ brought in through his obedience, rolls back all of it.

         And that’s good news to us Millennials.
         Because there’s a lot to roll back in our relatively short lives.
         We distrust marriage, because half of us are children of divorce, and we know even if we overcome that distrust, we still can’t afford to get married… we’ve got friend on food stamps and younger brothers who’ve yet to get a job or go to college or move out of our parent’s house.
         We distrust political parties, politics, and people in charge, because they’ve made partisanship a virtue and politics a banal zero-sum blood sport, and those in power got us into two land wars in Asia and didn’t give our brothers and sisters who went to war proper equipment to survive there or proper treatment when they came back.
         We distrust religion because we’ve seen the fundamentalism that toppled the Twin Towers and we’ve seen Catholic Bishops hide child rape.

         When asked the question, “Generally speaking, would you say most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people,” 81% of us said people are not trustworthy—even 31% of those supposedly cynical Gen-Xers before us trusted people, but not us.
         And that goes for God too
—after all, what kind of God would condone unthinking suicidal violence and unspeakable abuse?
That kind of God, would be a monster, would be Satanic.

         And that’s why we,
my people,
the Millennials
That why I myself
need to hear about Jesus.
         Hear what He did today. How his responses to temptation reveal a God

         Satan baits Jesus—“if you are the Son of God”—right after God revealed Jesus’ Sonship at Baptism—
“if you are the Son of God, feed yourself… feed on others, use that power for personal gain—isn’t that what a real God would do?”
… but Jesus uses his Sonship to feed others, to feed the hungry-ones… because Jesus can be trusted.

         Satan baits Jesus—“Be protected, be revealed at the Temple as the Son of God, be glorified and sheltered, use religion as a shield from the reality of gravity and use it to be honored and above reproach.”
…but Jesus uses his Sonship to be vulnerable at the Temple, to be attacked by the religious folk—lifted high, but upon a reproachable cross—giving himself fully… because Jesus can be trusted.
         Satan baits Jesus—“then be a typical human, give it all up for power, worship a false god, worship the horrific and monstrous and Satanic—so that all things will be yours.”
…but Jesus points to the One Who Truly Deserves Worship, and in doing so, he shows us that the One Who Gave Up All Vestiges Of Power is truly worthy of honor… because Jesus can be trusted.

What is God’s Good News for the Millennial Generation?
         Keeping God’s Earth is a Holy Calling.
         We don’t have to check our mind at the Church door.
         Jesus conquers Sin and Death, even right now.
         And finally,
Jesus can be trusted.