Triennium attendees are advised what to do once they get home
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — “It’s time to go,” the Rev. CeCe Armstrong told the thousands of people gathered for closing worship Saturday at Presbyterian Youth Triennium. “We often forget that mission starts at home — your own house or your own church. We’ve experienced things here, but if we don’t take them back, the church doesn’t change, but you have. Hallelujah!”
Armstrong, associate pastor at St. James Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., filled in for the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, as the Saturday preacher. She received numerous calls of “amen!” and “preach!” as well as a standing ovation. Her stirring sermon was followed by colorful confetti spewed from a pair of cannons on stage at the Elliott Hall of Music on the campus of Purdue University.
“I’m good and nervous, y’all,” she said of the task ahead of her. “It’s a good thing all week long we have clearly been hearing the message God has for us. My message today is that God expects us to do exactly what Jesus taught.”
On returning home, Armstrong had this admonition: “We get so good and holy and ‘better than thou’ that we forget to go back and work with the folks there,” she said. “You’ve got to go and improve the neighborhood. That’s what Jesus said.”
“People will see you smiling all the time,” she told worshipers. “Could it be that Jesus has changed your life? Be who you are supposed to be, who God has called you to be.”
Jesus concluded the Great Commission, she pointed out, by instructing the disciples to make disciples of all nations.
“Jesus is sending us into the world,” she said. “There are missions all over the world, and we are responsible for that, too … The Lord is calling you, and you need to do some work. You need to do what God is telling you to do.”
After Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples stood there looking up to the clouds, apparently unsure of what to do next. Two men in white robes appeared, asking the disciples why they’re standing around looking skyward. “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven,” Luke writes in Acts 1.
“That’s what we do,” Armstrong said. “We go to places like this where we stop and acknowledge that God is here, and then we forget about the work we have to do.”
“Jesus is the one who left. We didn’t,” she said. “We have work to do. The same Jesus who met you on the campus of Purdue University will meet you in the same way. Quit looking toward heaven and waiting for the mighty hand of God when you have been given agency.”
“It’s your responsibility,” she said, “to figure out how your gifts and talents can change the world. As hot as it’s been here on the Purdue campus, I know you can’t stand here gazing up to heaven. You’ve got to go home.”
But before you do, she advised, take a few minutes to write down the lessons learned during Triennium. She took out an oversized envelope and note card to demonstrate.
“Take what you’ve learned, put it in an envelope, seal it and hand it back to God,” she said. “Don’t let what happened this week be wasted because you didn’t tell anybody. How will they have their lives transformed unless you use your gifts?”
Months or even years from now, “when the Holy Spirit prompts you, go back to that envelope and you will see how God is using you,” she said. “To God be the glory.”
In addition to the confetti shower, closing worship included some familiar elements from services during the week, including music by the house worship band the Nettletons, a mashup of Triennium energizers and an appearance by the drama team. Seated in the balcony, the Triennium choir, under the direction of Phillip Morgan, delivered a gorgeous a capella version of Stephen Paulus’ anthem “The Road Home.”
During the benediction, Armstrong reminded worshipers of what Paul told the Colossian church: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” giving thanks to God through Jesus.
“Go in peace,” she said.
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Tags: 2019-triennium, great commission, phillip morgan, Presbyterian Youth Triennium, rev. cece armstrong, rev. dr. j. herbert nelson ii, st. james presbyterian church, stephen paulus, the nettletons, the road home
Ministries: Office of Christian Formation, Age and Stage Formation Ministries