It is had for me to believe that I graduated from high school almost twelve years ago. It’s even harder to imagine that in fifteen to twenty years I could have teenagers of my own! A couple of weeks ago, Jim mentioned 1 Corinthians 13:11 which says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” He explained that a child thinks in absolutes, black-and-white rules, right and wrong, but as one grows, the complexities of faith become more apparent. We no longer believe things simply because we have been told to believe them. We should begin to question in order to truly establish faith for ourselves.

This week is Youth Sunday, a special Sunday where we focus on our Youth Ministry as they help lead us in worship. I love being part of a church that has a thriving youth ministry. It is my privilege to be a small part of that ministry as the accompanist for our youth ensemble, Vocare. The youth of First Baptist are blessed to have leaders who not only provide them a place to come and enjoy special activities with their friends but who also lead them to learn, question and live out their faith in order to create a better world that focuses on loving God and loving others.

As we focus on African-American history this month, we are reminded that throughout history – and still today – so many people use “faith” to ostracize and create division. Growing up as a pastor’s son, two pastors’ grandson, and nephew, brother, and cousin to many other pastors, I have been in a lot of churches. I have seen wonderful work accomplished for God and been part of encouraging and inspiring worship services, but so often, I have also witnessed division, anger, hate and cruelty occur within congregations that are called by Christ to love.

One of the things that attracted me to First Baptist was the solidarity I felt among the members here. We are a congregation of various backgrounds and beliefs whose differences could so easily create derision and division, but we understand that the mission of Christ is not for all of us to think the same way about politics, social reform, even the interpretation of Scripture. His call is simple: love God and love others. First Baptist has embraced that, but we still have work to do — in our congregation, in our community and in the world.

I chose an arrangement of “God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens” as the prelude for this Sunday because the message of the text is pertinent both for a Sunday where we celebrate the youth of our church and for the emphasis on solidarity of humankind through our focus on African-American history. We are all created in God’s likeness, and God’s goals are for us to use the inventive powers he has given us to help the lonely and unnoticed find purpose and meaning in him. We are called to honor God by serving others.

As you read these lyrics, I hope that you will make this your prayer to God: “Great Creator, give us guidance till our goals and yours are one.”

-Shelton

God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens
Lyrics by Catherine Cameron (© 1967 Hope Publishing Company)
Music attributed to William Moore
Arranged by Douglas E. Wagner (© 2016 Lorenz Publishing Company)

God, who stretched the spangled heavens
Infinite in time and place,
Flung the suns in burning radiance
Through the silent fields of space,
We, your children in your likeness,
Share inventive powers with you.
Great Creator, still creating,
Show us what we yet may do.

Proudly rise our modern cities,
Stately buildings row on row.
Yet their windows, blank, unfeeling,
Stare on canyoned streets below
Where the lonely drift unnoticed
In the city’s ebb and flow,
Lost to purpose and to meaning,
Scarcely caring where they go.

As each far horizon beckons,
May it challenge us anew,
Children of creative purpose,
Serving others, honoring you.
May our dreams prove rich with promise,
Each endeavor well begun.
Great Creator, give us guidance
Till our goals and yours are one.