Giving God a divine shout-out and a high five

Powerhouse preaching kicks off 2019 College Conference at Montreat

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle, executive presbyter at the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, tells the story of the Good Samaritan during opening worship at the 2019 College Conference at Montreat. To her right are conference musicians Jamie and Laura Thompson. (Photo by Mike Ferguson)

MONTREAT, N.C. — When we see the world through the eyes of love, compassion and mercy — the way the Good Samaritan did — it’s like giving God a divine shout-out and a high five.

“We need more people with the courage to see, who will take off the blinders of simply minding our own business,” the Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle, executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, told the nearly 1,000 students gathered Wednesday evening for opening worship at the 2019 College Conference at Montreat.

The aim of the conference is to respond to God’s call for compassion in a broken world.

In Jesus’ parable, the Good Samaritan saw the robbery victim “as a stranger, but thought of him as a friend, someone he could care for the way God had cared for him,” Brooks-Lytle said.

He then took money out of his own pocket and told the innkeeper, “You have to care for him the same way I did,” she said.

“The world needs courageous people who have eyes to see — not skim, not look over, not glance — but to really see people the way God sees them, with compassion, mercy and love.”

How do we do that? “I wish I had an easy remedy for you,” she said. “The truth is this is a lifetime work, which is why it’s important we’re catching you at this stage of your life.”

She offered students three points to take home with them. “After all,” she quipped, “I’m still a Presbyterian pastor.”

  • Pray for wisdom and discernment. “God is calling us to see, but not to play superhero or savior,” she said. “Sometimes when we see pain in the world, we think we are compelled to fix everything that is broken.” We do better, she said, when we do God’s work in a cohort. “God will direct your steps,” she said, “and show you how to respond.”
  • Peel back the layers. Brooks-Lytle is a 44-year-old widow whose husband died about nine months ago. She recalled having to sit in silence for two hours at a spiritual retreat a few years back. “God, I hate this,” she told the Almighty. “I hate that he is sick and is going to die.” It was then, she said, that she heard God’s voice: “Don’t hate it,” God told her. “See it, for the beauty and the brokenness.” Peeling back the layers, including in her difficult role as caregiver, brought about “so much healing, beauty and wholeness, even in those last moments” of his earthly life, she said.
  • Practice. A woman in her presbytery known as Mama Kim insisted that Brooks-Lytle accompany her to a maximum security prison “to preach and sing with my guys,” Mama Kim told her. While Brooks-Lytle admitted to being terrified at first, “it changed my life to be able to practice seeing people who are not seen and being with brothers who have done and gone through terrible things but are making sense of their lives.” When the two women left the prison, Mama Kim told her, “Aisha, my guys were so happy you came to see them. Come back in December,” which she did, telling Mama Kim, “If you can stand strong and trust God, I have to do the same.”

Taking courageous action “is all God calls us to do,” Brooks-Lytle said. “People need us, and God is calling us. May we be courageous and do so.”

The conference runs through Saturday. It’s attracted students from more than 100 churches and campus ministries from across the nation.

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