There's a book by Parker Palmer that's been on my "to be read" list for at least a decade called Let Your Life Speak, and I already know I'm obsessed with it. The book focuses on the central question: "Are you living as the person God created you to be" or trying to be someone else? Are you living out your true God-given gifts and groundedness, or are you living according to someone else's script?
There's an old Hasidic tale that Palmer discussed in an interview about the book. A disciple went to his rabbi and asked, "What must I do to become more like Moses before I die?" The rabbi responded, "When you die, my son, you won't be asked why you were not more like Moses. You will be asked why you were not more like yourself."
We are all created wonderfully and uniquely to be ourselves, not anyone else. Palmer points out it is that self that God gave you. Our call as Christians is to live by the grace of Christ, expressing that true self more fully and honestly with each passing day, although I'm confident such growth isn't always linear.
This Sunday is Youth Sunday. It'll be the second Youth Sunday during the pandemic – in 2020 the service was held just a few weeks before the lockdown began. 2021 was all virtual and prerecorded, and 2019's was blessedly normal. And this year, we'll be in person, masked unless speaking, and we’ll be doing our best to distance ourselves from one another. In total, I've been able to work with 10 youth as they've discerned what to preach on and share with the congregation. It's a truly humbling experience and one of the favorite parts of my job.
I get to sit with youth as they read Scripture, listen for the Spirit, and discern with them what God calls them to share. Usually, their minds go to a few stories from their past. We then get to go on a "Where's Waldo" search for the Spirit in their stories. We find places where their true God-created self shows up, where they have manifested more fully who they are as bearers of the imago Dei, the image of God.
This Sunday you'll hear our youth talk about what helped them grow more into "the person God created me to be." And that's my absolute favorite part of my job - watching our brilliant teenagers become more fully the person God created them to be, year after year. My prayer for you this Youth Sunday is that in hearing the stories of our youth, you remember your own story, your truest identity as a beloved child of God.