“I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’, to a nation that did not call on my name.” They are meant to be the words of the prophet Isaiah from long ago, but they are also the very words spoken by plenty of people across this country, and throughout the world, for that matter. Outcasts, we call them. They will be used these next four-and-a-half months for political gain. They will be nothing more than a statistic in a newspaper headline or a scrolling subtext at the bottom of a television news program. They are nothing more than outcasts, cast aside from the normalcy that we so wholeheartedly treasure.
And when they dare infiltrate our day-to-day life by approaching us for help, we allow the few who manipulate the system and take advantage of our kindness to infect our view of all outcasts not just in our community, not just in our nation, but throughout the world. They become nothing more than a nuisance for us wanting to live our life to the fullest. Nevertheless, there they are: ready to be sought out, to be found by a people who refuse to seek them at all.
This next week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, five young people plan to change that. The outcasts will be sought out. They will be found by teenagers seeking them, to help them be reminded that not only are we showing up into their life to bring some sense of comfort and hope, but that God was with them all along, through all the pain and anguish they endured. At no point did God, through Jesus Christ, ever leave them. Teenagers will have the power to bring God to life all the more these next six days.
But then Friday will come, and the junior high and high school students not just from St. John’s, but from youth groups all over the country, will return home. And the still looked-down upon outcasts will be left in Kenosha. More work will still need to be done not just in the southeast corner of Wisconsin, or here on the other side of Lake Michigan, but all over the world. Brandon, Patrick, Brendon, Brianna, and Isabel will not be able to solve global poverty in six days.
And two weeks ago when Jake and Patrick graduated from high school, when they were told in no uncertain terms how proud their families and teachers were of their accomplishments, there was this sense of completion of a long journey. But of course in the eyes of God, for Jake and Patrick, their journey is just beginning: one that is not simply about finding the right path for them to take to figure out what’s going to get them to the most financially stable lifestyle, or the best state of happiness with a certain career. The journey is also about looking off the path, to the outcasts, figuring out what Jake and Patrick have to offer to help others in need.
That’s the problem with this God, after all. God is a little obsessed with…everybody. Not just those who graduated from high school or college or medical school, or obtained PhD’s or any other academic achievement. God evidently cares about those who can’t read, who can’t figure out what they want to do with their life, who have fallen on the hardest of times, who are born into circumstances that offer no hope at all. God loves them just as much. In the end, those are the people who Jesus spends the most time with in the Gospels: “ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek... [who] said, ‘Here I am, here I am’, to a [world] that did not call on [their] name [at all].” We call them outcasts. Jesus calls them children of God.
And day after day the Holy Spirit continues to ignite within us, in the hope that we seek those children of God out, taking advantage of absolutely every opportunity to hear their name, hear their story; that they will know God cherishes them no matter what life has thrown at them. So as Brandon, Patrick, Brendon, Brianna, and Isabel leave St. John’s this afternoon to embark on their own mission journey, they will not be out to represent St. John’s or the youth group, but as sisters and brothers in Christ, sisters and brothers to the people whom they will be serving.
No, they won’t be able to solve all the problems, and Jake and Patrick with as much potential as they have going forward after graduating from high school, cannot fix everything broken in this world, but God isn’t ready to stop from inspiring us to keep on trying anyway. Too many lives can be impacted, too many people can be reminded how much Jesus Christ is still alive and well in this world; too many blessings of simple conversations and laughter and love can absolutely shatter all the cynicism and hatred that plagues us. Our youth’s generation has already started to leave their mark, and it’s only going to get larger this week, and for the rest of their life. And so for all of their gifts that they bring to this world, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon