By Caleigh Smith
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
For Lent this year, my husband and I decided to participate in what many call the “Daniel Fast.” It’s loosely based on Daniel’s decision to have “nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink” in Daniel 1. Yes, you read that right; this fast means no meat, no dairy, and no added sugars. But because of these limited food options, we have been able to spend more time cooking meals together and pointing out the work the Lord is doing in our lives.
As students and families at our church began to notice our drastically altered diet, this spiritual discipline that started as a way for us to pay more attention to the Lord and to each other turned into witnessing opportunities. While they watched us indulge in donuts and coffee for breakfast before our weekly church services, youth and parents questioned us about the Sundays in Lent. Contrary to their initial thoughts, Sundays are not “cheat days.” The type of fasting we are participating in during Lent is not meant to be a fad diet. Feasting on Sundays, which are not counted in the 40 days of Lent, is meant to give us glimpses of the resurrection that we will celebrate on Easter. I’ve come to believe that the reason young people tend to be unaware of this rich practice is connected with their soteriology, what they believe about salvation. When asked about salvation, too many people are content to say only, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins.” Of course this is true, but it’s not nearly the whole story.
In sharing about this fast with other people, my husband and I have been able to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The tomb is empty. Jesus rose again. He defeated sin and death so that we may have new life by the power of the Holy Spirit! These are truths worth celebrating with feasting!
As we approach Holy Week and the busyness these days entail for ministers, we must be mindful of the story we’re telling. What about Jesus stands out to you in this season? What about Jesus is particularly significant to your youth?
Some students will need to hear about Jesus’ life, how he “proclaim[ed] good news to the poor” and “freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4:18). Some students will need to hear about Jesus’ full humanity, how “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a), and how, especially in Jesus’ death on the cross, our God fully identified with our limitations and our suffering. Some students will need to hear about Jesus’ resurrection, how “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
There are people, including us as youth ministers, who need to hear afresh or for the first time these aspects of the Good News. While your attention is divided between your own Lenten journey of fasting and your church’s plethora of programs, don’t miss an opportunity to talk with someone about all the pieces of God’s story. Tell the whole truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to your community of people waiting to receive and rejoice in this Good News.
About Caleigh Smith:
Caleigh Smith has been pursuing God’s call to youth ministry since she was in middle school. She is a Michigander at heart braving the Texas heat to serve as Youth Director at Bracken United Methodist Church. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Youth Ministry from Asbury University and will graduate in May 2019 with a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry as part of CYMT’s graduate residency program. She and her husband, Trevor, spend their free time rock climbing and playing board games.
Holy Week is an important time in the Church. While we can’t be with our youth and families in person right now, we can still resource them on their personal spiritual journeys as we all journey toward the Cross this Easter. We’ve provided a Palm Sunday lesson for you and 6 daily devotionals you can send your students Monday - Saturday of Holy Week.
How can we move young people towards a life of fulfillment in the midst of our consumer and achievement-driven culture? What does the “good life” look like through the lens of the Gospel in areas of wealth and in areas of poverty?
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