I preached this weekend again (two weekends in a row), but won't again for a month, which is an unusual arrangement. As well, I went down to the 9th grade confirmation retreat Friday night through Saturday morning, to help them prepare to write their faith statements, to lead an evening devotion, and to walk through the Rite of Affirmation of Baptism with them.
I drove back to church Saturday afternoon to meet a couple who is preparing for their wedding, and to get ready for the Saturday evening service.
There have been a large group of young adults staying in our church all weekend. They are training with an organization called YouthWorks, and will go all over the country, leading high school students on mission trips. I had brief conversations with a few of them (mostly consisting in "How are you doing?"), and ran into a couple of young women having a heartfelt conversation in the chapel Saturday afternoon.
This morning they all came to worship. They came to worship at our traditional, early service.
Our early service (may I say) sort of skews older. It is also the smaller of our two services. But it was twice as large this morning, with this large group of twenty-somethings and this large group of sixty and seventy-somethings, and some (of course) between.
My sermon had a sort-of good shepherd theme, lifting up the idea that perhaps we err in focusing so much on the deficiencies of the sheep, rather than the goodness of the shepherd. I shared about the messages we all get that highlight what we are lacking, and promise to give us what we need (There is even a perfume called "Amazing Grace." We can buy it and be more beautiful.)
Borrowing an idea from a popular preaching site, I closed the sermon by asking people to say to one another, "You are a beloved child of God, and you are enough."
After the service, I saw the young people and the older people talking to one another, making connections and sharing about their lives. Several of the young people thanked me for the opportunity to stay in our church this weekend.
But I was thanking them too.
There are many kinds of grace; there are many ways the shepherd helps us know that, though we are imperfect, we are beloved and beautiful and worthy.
He lays down his life for the sheep. And he takes it up again.
And then he gives us to one another, young and old, and everyone in between. And that is also grace. Amazing grace.