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‘Look right into the face of Almighty God and give yourself to the work that is before you’

Twenty-two Young Adult Volunteers who will work for a year at 10 sites are commissioned on Sunday

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Twenty-two Young Adult Volunteers who have agreed to give a year of service for a lifetime of change were commissioned online Sunday in a service that featured stirring, comforting and challenging words by both the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II and the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett.

Watch the hour-long service here.

“Wow! You are about to be commissioned to do a major work for Jesus Christ in the world. Wow! You ought to be excited about it. I know I am excited for you,” said Nelson, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), who delivered recorded remarks. “The YAV program has been one that has truly been a blessing to our denomination.”

The Young Adult Volunteer program is an ecumenical, faith-based year of service for young people ages 19-30 in sites across the United States and the world. YAVs serve alongside local partners working to address the root causes of poverty, working for reconciliation in cultures of violence and sharing the hope of Christ. They engage in discernment — the practice of deep listening — to find out who God is calling them to be.

“Don’t take this lightly. This is not a junket,” Nelson told those gathered online. He asked them to “be those individuals who will shake up the world” and “help other individuals understand the power of Jesus Christ and the walk of faith that led you to where you are. Don’t be intimidated by this experience — no, you can do this.”

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II is Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“Most of what you do from this point on is going to come from your heart and your spirit and how you share that with those you come in contact with, and how you explore the deeper reaches of God’s calling on your life,” Nelson said. “I want to suggest to each and every one of you as you’re commissioned today: take this seriously. Look right into the face of Almighty God and give yourself to the work that is before you. Don’t loaf, don’t get lazy and don’t make excuses. Engage even that which is tough and unknown to you, and in so doing know that there is a God who will take care of you when you engage for the right reason and when you truly allow yourself to live into the places God is calling you.”

Promising he’ll be praying for each member of this year’s class of YAVs, Nelson said he’ll also be asking a question important to his heart: “How can we, the church of Jesus Christ, become a much more profound entity in the life of young people just like you?”

“Someone else will be inspired to do great things because they have seen through your inspiration the opportunity to serve the Lord,” Nelson said. “Who knows where it will lead you? I’ve been in ministry now for over 30 years. It’s the best work you’ll ever do. … The work you are engaging right now is being uplifted by God who will give you everything you need. Welcome to the journey!”

“I look forward,” Nelson said, “to hearing what you have learned and what you gained when the experience is over.”

Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, preached a rousing homily called “Stay Connected” from Matthew 25:34-40 and John 15:4-5, 9.

Stay connected, she suggested to those being commissioned, to God, your faith community and “the world we live in and are called to serve. That will help you draw essential strength and nutrients in time of hallelujah and heartache, praise and pain, joy and sorrow.”

Stay connected through quiet time and prayer, Moffett advised. “Contemplate and ruminate over Scripture. Worship God and praise God for the blessings bestowed upon you.”

Moffett turned to the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman for this gem: “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett is president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Turning to the Matthew 25 passage, Moffett labeled it “interesting” that both groups in the parable, the goats and the sheep, are surprised “that Jesus dwells with the least of these, and they are not the only ones. People today may be surprised that Jesus centers the least of these. … People practice social distancing with the least of these because they see themselves as separate from them.”

“As you prepare to engage in service to the world, stay connected and stay close to the least of these,” Moffett told the YAVs. “Focus on them. Center them, because this is where you will find Jesus.”

Jesus’ focus was on the least of these because he knew what it was like to be hungry and thirsty, to have been welcomed in Egypt as a small child, to be “unjustly arrested and thrown in prison with no one to visit him,” Moffett said. “He was crucified on an old rugged cross, and yet he bears the fruit of life. Come on, YAVs! You know this story. On the third day he rises up and forms a community of believers who will continue to do his work, and you and I are part of that group.”

“Wherever you are, remember Jesus’ words: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’ To all of us I say, ‘Stay connected.’ Amen.”

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