Hey Superstar!

On Saturday night I went to see "Jesus Christ, Superstar" at MICDS. The show was well done-- the actors didn't fumble lines and the whole thing was reasonably polished. The tech side impressed me the most, as usual (being a techie it's hard to believe that anything other than the electric stuff makes any difference in the theatre!) and after the show I stayed for a few minutes to chat with the students from my congregation who were in the play. The whole gallery was packed with my fellow audience members, congratulating the young actors, saturating them with gifts and compliments and making them feel like the stars they were.

On Sunday, we pulled together with three other youth groups from the area and went into downtown St. Louis, to a ministry called Kingdom House. We had scheduled a service day, to have a tour of the place, find out what they do, and help with a few projects that needed to be done. First on the list-- sorting out a mountain (literally a pile 20 feet across and stretching up to the 8 foot ceiling in the basement) of clothing that had flooded in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some of it had been damaged in a flood a few weeks before. Most of the pile was sorted out and passed along to another charity. Small children's clothing, heavy coats and a few sports supplies stayed at the center for the programs that run onsite. As students grew tired of sorting and dragging piles of clothes, we sent groups out to rake and pick up trash on the yard. At the end of the afternoon, we had filled a dumpster with damaged, mildewed and too-worn items, piled up fifteen bags of leaves and trash, and filled a full-size van to the roof with donations for the other charity. The workers were smelly and sore and tired, and I heard several times that the afternoon had been boring.

"Christianity is not glamorous," Ralph told us at the beginning of the day. "Christianity is basic service to basic people. If you can't see Jesus in other people, how do you expect to recognize him in the flesh?"

How many times have I taught a rewards-based faith? How often do I make it look like being a Christian is like putting on a production of "Jesus Christ, Superstar?"

Mark Yaconelli, at the National Youthworkers' Convention this past year, said this: "If you have twelve kids who don't get it, who question everything you do-- if you suspect one of them is trying to kill you-- then God is blessing your ministry. Everyone else should be in doubt." He pointed out that when Jesus started telling people what his purpose was, they started to leave.

For the sake of numbers, of exposing as many people to the message as I can, I'm expected to teach a cheerful discipleship. I'm pressed to talk about how God makes everything better. I understand that the more people we draw near the story, the more will grow to commit to their part in it, even when I tell them what ministry really is. But the balance I fight to strike is this: if a student won't come to Jesus for the unglamorous parts of his work, what use is that one to the kingdom?

It's not mine to decide that, of course, but this Lent what I am giving up is the sugar-coating of my faith. My students need community and recreation with their friends, but on top of that they have a deep need to know what things will make a real difference.


Esther said...

I never thought of giving up something that's immaterial for Lent before. That makes a lot of sense.

May God bless you in your commitment to helping people understand the truth about Christianity.

Isaac, The Rookie said...

Last year I gave up television and my youth group didn't believe me. This year, I'm heading for metaphysical sacrifices... thanks, Esther!