Today was our last day at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event.
After breakfast, we packed our bags and headed to our closing worship.
There, Pastor Yehiel Curry from Shekinah Chapel in Chicago led us in a Libation Ceremony.
The theme for MYLE today was “ONE in Christ,” based on:
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it] 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” – Ephesians 12:14-19
So Pastor Curry PREACHED about our oneness in Christ and reminded us that Christ brings down the walls of hostility that divide us.
“It is not black families alone affected by mass incarceration; we are affected by mass incarceration. Why? Because we are one in Christ.
The Virgin Islands, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Houston: ‘they’ didn’t have a hurricane; we had a hurricane. Why? Because we are one in Christ.
It is not just immigrant families being separated; we are being separated. Why?
Because we are one in Christ.”
He explained that if we want to create change, we need to start within us.
“When you change your heart, you can change your mind. When you change your mind, you can change your community. When you change your community, you can change your city. When you change your city, you can change your state. When you can change your state, you can change your nation. When you can change your nation, you can change your world.
When you can say this is my brother, this is my sister, this is my family: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING! We are ONE in Christ.”
Pastor Curry explained that it is when we immerse ourselves with others who may look, speak, talk, and act differently than we do and get to know them, that we will begin to realize that we are more alike than we are different.
He saw this taking place at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event this week.
Pastor Curry said last night he saw black, white, Latinx, and Asian youth dancing together. And when we can dance together, share music and fellowship and call each other a siblings, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!
We ended MYLE with a blessing to go out into the world and proclaim Jesus’ peace and justice for ALL people.
The rest of the afternoon was spent getting ready to head to the ELCA Youth Gathering main event.
At 2:00pm, we finally arrived at our hotel. And as we waited for our rooms, some of us swam and others watched some World Cup games.
We grabbed dinner nearby.
And then, since our hotel is in the Medical Center, we hopped on the metro rail as headed to the NRG Stadium for our first mass gathering.
With 30,000 youth and pastors/adult leaders gathering in one place, we had to do a lot of waiting… but we found lots of ways to bond while doing so!
Our first mass gathering was excellent!
We began with some fun music:
We were greeted by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton:
And throughout the night, we heard the ELCA Youth Gathering theme: “This Changes Everything.” We also heard this evening’s sub-theme: “God’s Call Changes Everything” through multiple call stories.
We worshipped together:
And then we heard a powerful message from Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. (He is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults.)
Bryan explained that our call is to change the world.
He explained that there are four things we need to do to change the world:
1. God calls us to get closer to the margins. There is power in proximity. We need to get close to those who are being excluded and suffering. This is how we can change the world.
2. When we see injustice we need to speak out and talk about/address our history of racial injustice.
3. We need to stay hopeful. This can be difficult because hope requires us to believe things we cannot see. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. It holds us back from doing what we can to make change.
4. We have to be willing to do things that are uncomfortable and difficult in order to pursue justice.
He concluded: “I believe with this room full of 1000s of young people who are willing to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, we WILL change the world.”
We concluded the gathering with more worship.
There is something s powerful about singing “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna Let it Shine” with 30,000 young people.)
We ended the evening with a lot of walking and waiting. But we found ways to make it fun!
We look forward to our first full day at the ELCA Youth Gathering tomorrow!