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Better than swag

 

Triennium attendees have their say on what the Matthew 25 invitation means

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Dana Dages talks to Presbyterian Youth Triennium attendees about the Matthew 25 invitation (Photo by Andrew Yeager-Buckley)

LOUISVILLE — Those attending last month’s Presbyterian Youth Triennium took home plenty of swag from the booth explaining the Matthew 25 invitation. But about 500 of the 4,000 youth in attendance July 16-20 left behind something even more valuable — their thoughts on what a Matthew 25 church ought to do and be in the community.

“All God’s children were created equal. Act like it!” one youth wrote on one of the hundreds of sticky notes affixed to a large poster bearing the Matthew 25 logo. As the number of comments grew, the poster took on the look of the logo — an overhead view of three figures standing shoulder to shoulder to form a circle.

Asked what the invitation means, one youth responded, “To see the love that God offers without ever receiving anything in return. Loving one another even if there is no reward.”

It’s “fighting for those who need help,” one youth wrote. For another, it’s “seeing Jesus in each and every person and serving them as Christ would — with our hearts and hands, arms and feet, minds and spirits.”

“No matter what skin color you are,” one youth wrote, “you’re still human. Treat people how you want to be treated.”

“I liked seeing so many kids being involved in their church,” said Becky Trinkle, who along with her Presbyterian Mission Agency colleague Dana Dages staffed the booth throughout most of Triennium, which ran July 16-20. “It gave you hope for the future.”

Presbyterian Youth Triennium attendees could load up on Matthew 25 tchotchkes. (Photo by Dana Dages)

Dages said she was struck by “how excited they were to have their voices heard, that we cared enough to ask for their opinion. They seemed excited at being able to share that.”

Clearly activated by the invitation — which invites churches, presbyteries and synods to “actively engage in the world around us, so our faith comes alive and we wake up to new possibilities” — one visitor located her youth pastor to ask if she could lead a Matthew 25 campaign in her church. Not surprisingly, he told her she could.

As soon as Dages and Trinkle could get Jesus’ words out from Matthew 25:40 — “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” — “a lightbulb went off” in the minds of many Triennium attendees, Dages said. Youth would nod and say, “Oh yeah! Our church does that,” she said. “Each church had some kind of Matthew 25 program.”

To help youth spread the Matthew 25 invitation upon their return home, Trinkle and Dages gave away thousands of swag items, including pins, beach balls, T-shirts to youth who filled out a sticky note, glow-in-the-dark bracelets — even temporary tattoos featuring the logo.

In all, about 500 youth attending Presbyterian Youth Triennium last month offered up their thoughts on the Matthew 25 invitation. (Photo by Dana Dages)

Among the thoughts of the youth who visited the Matthew 25 booth:

  • “Matthew 25 means that by caring for God’s children, you are caring for God.”
  • “Matthew 25 means providing all children of God with basic survival needs in order that they can thrive in Christ.”
  • “Love others when they don’t love us or hurt us. I will use my life and experiences to encourage others.”
  • “Matthew 25 to me is inclusion and a full love of God and his people. It is fighting for those who need help in bringing people together in unity.”
  • “I love that it says that anyone who does that does that for me. I always do things in the name of the Lord.”
  • Hope and optimism that God will be there when times are tough.”
  • “Being a Matthew 25 congregation would extend the love we have out to greater numbers of people.”
  • “We are here to not only serve those in our congregation, but those who live near us locally, nationally and internationally.”
  • “God helps us when we are in need and we should do the same.”
  • “God’s love holds no judgment. There is no sin too great or mistake too large that God will not forgive us for it. Be kind and reach out as the Lord has.”
  • “If our Creator loves everyone, then why can’t we live like him? Stop false living and start living how our father intended us to live, with love and acceptance.”
  • “I’m a person of color, and ever since I was young I have been standing against racism back at home. I am in multiple clubs fighting for equal rights for people of color and women.”

The annotated Matthew 25 poster is displayed on the fifth floor of the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Ky.


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