A Few Questions

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

October 17, 2021
Youth Sunday

Scripture readings – Romans 5: 1-8 and Mark 12: 28-34

Sermon: “A Few Questions” by Keiana Kreitz

Pastor Mark had discussed with me about speaking today, on youth Sunday. I was a little nervous being I’d write my own message. Never done it before, wasn’t sure if there was a method to it. I was worried about what lines existed and if I’d cross them in the church. what was acceptable and comfortable to everyone vs what was honest and authentic. I didn’t know if I should write a message with a happy ending in mind or if I should keep transparency in mind. I think Pastor Mark does a great job with bringing honesty each Sunday.

Topics that matter in today’s world and the scripture being applied to real life. That’s the kind of church I always saw myself attending.

Already a little nervous (but excited, I’m learning to love trying new things) he asked me if my message could answer (from my POV) the question: Why does the youth in today’s world stop going to church? Why does my age group specifically teens to young adults stop attending? Why do we make that choice? 

There’s a lot of directions I could go with these questions, but I wanted to speak as honestly as possible from my POV and from friends who were all raised in Christian homes. It’s one of those questions, where do I start? The answer I’m sure is different for everyone.

I was raised Methodist. Since I can remember I went to church every single Sunday with my family. It almost felt like a requirement that I didn’t mind. We attended services every week in addition to youth services when I became of age. Growing up and being a kid, I couldn’t comprehend the depth of being a Christian and what having a relationship with God meant. I believed in Him and I loved Him, but I didn’t understand the power he carried. I loved my youth services and I felt like I was able to connect with God and learn a little bit more about him each service. 

At a certain age it became my choice if I wanted to go to church or not and that’s when I started to really take everything in. Something changed. Services felt more and more of a chore and my heart stopped being in it. I didn’t feel like I could relate anymore. It didn’t feel like it applied to my life. It didn’t feel like a safe space anymore. It felt artificial. I felt disconnected. It felt like my uncertainty and inconsistency with the church made me an “outsider.” I no longer felt welcomed. 

A lot of people would assume it’s because of “tradition.” We’re young we want things that are new. We want to do things our way. Which is partly true but still…I think most my age can agree there’s nothing wrong with tradition. Everyone, no matter the age, have traditions we hold dear. Maybe it’s not because of tradition that pushes us away, maybe It’s the beliefs that come with it.

It started to seem like most churches cared more about the money they brought in each week rather than it did the personal relationships their congregation had with Christ. It started to feel like churches cared more about presentation with a pretty bow attached, rather than flawed, raw, human beings trying to change, trying to do and be better. It seemed like the ugly parts of life and ourselves were wrong to talk about in church. You could have your demons, but here it wasn’t okay to bring them to light. The lines started to become clear. There were things off limit in church. Those imperfect parts were not accepted.

I struggled for a long time wrapping my brain around the idea of a place meant to bring you closer together and with God yet was filled with judgment. I didn’t understand how we could call ourselves Christians but not be able to accept one another fully. How we wanted to pick and choose those who were “admissible” or “worthy” to love as we loved ourselves. A love that was conditional. I’ll love you as myself as long as you are the same as me. As long as you see things like me. As long as you think like me. We don’t welcome those with open arms who appear broken or damaged. We don’t want to love those who are different, who aren’t conventional. We never want the baggage that comes with being human. Not ours and not anyone else’s.

I found it so hard to find a church that would be fully accepting of me – and accepting of those I love. A love that isn’t limited to or only inclusive of, a love that is love for me – and for anybody else who welcomes the idea.

But yet, judgment seemed to be everywhere. One of the most important people in my life struggled with these thoughts and internal questions as well. A little context, he’s been my best friend- more like family since I was young. We accepted each other fully. That is a love that will forever remain unconditional. With his permission he allowed me to speak on his behalf today.  He has faced persecution from the church just because he is gay. He wasn’t accepted. He was shunned. It pushed me further and further from the church knowing someone I love so deeply could be treated so poorly for things that were out of his control. I never saw anything wrong with it, and I could never understand why people within the church seemed so affected by something that was not even his choice. I never saw him any differently.

I am not in a position of judgement. Why should I love him any differently? I always loved him the same. It hurt me to see him hurt because of a place that was meant to be safe and welcoming for all. 

How could we preach about loving your neighbor as yourself but not be accepting of him? How is it then okay to place judgment? How can we not practice what we preach? Just because someone may not agree just because someone may not like it does not make him any less worthy of love or acceptance from the church. It’s not our place to judge.

There was a weird sort of comfort knowing we weren’t alone in feeling like we were on the outside. Weird being you wouldn’t think a place like the church would have you question your place of belonging in it. That was never its purpose.

After discussing with other friends our experiences in the church, we realized even more we weren’t the only ones feeling like this. For all different reasons of course, but the discomfort was all the same.

It was because of judgement. It’s because we didn’t feel comfortable. It’s because we felt like we had to be somebody else to be worthy enough to be there. But as Christians, that was never our purpose. We are not God. We don’t get to choose who God’s love is meant for. 

Roman’s 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this While we were still sinners Christ died for us”…for us. Us is not exclusive. Us is not only a select few. His selflessness, his love was meant for every single one of us. We are all sinners and He died to save us all.  It’s not our job to decide who goes to Heaven and who goes to hell. Our job as Christians is to love. Fully and completely. Our job is to love unconditionally. No “as long as” no “if, and, or but.”  This means acceptance. Even the not so pretty parts. Even the parts that we may have our own opinions of. We are meant to be welcoming of one another. A light to one another.

I think if we took it upon ourselves to go that extra mile to extend God’s love without limits, we’d no longer question our sense of belonging. We wouldn’t feel out of place. We wouldn’t just have a church – we’d have a home.  Amen!

“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:31