Hardwick urges team to ‘point to God’s work in Jesus’
by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Presbyterian Youth Triennium (PYT) staff, volunteers and coordinators were commissioned at a Monday evening worship service in the brief pre-conference calm on the campus of Purdue University. Today marks the official start of the event that has drawn 4,400 students and over 300 adult volunteers and staff to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Cumberland Presbyterian Church gathering.
Preaching on Matthew 11:1-6, where John the Baptist’s disciples come to Jesus to ask if he is really the messiah, Chip Hardwick, executive director of PC(USA) Theology, Formation and Evangelism, encouraged the gathered leaders to show participants where Jesus was at work in the coming week.
“John the Baptist’s leadership team didn’t have that problem. They pointed right to what God was doing in Jesus,” said Hardwick. “And I don’t think you—this leadership team—I don’t think you are going to have that problem either. I think you’re going to point those students right to what God is doing in Jesus Christ.”
Noting the challenges present in working with youth—whether from alienation, awkwardness, self-doubt or self-assurance—Hardwick gave voice and names to some of these archetypes in his sermon.
“When you see a student I’ll call ‘Dustin’ get his eyes opened,” Hardwick said in one example. “Dustin is from a small town and a smaller church and suddenly he’s getting a glimpse of how big the whole wide church is—Dustin has never seen 5000 people come together to do anything, let alone 5,000 students come together to worship God, you’re going to say, ‘I see Jesus giving sight to the blind!’ You’re going to point out what God is up to in Jesus, because of Dustin.”
“I hope you can say, ‘I see Jesus,’ time and time again,” he concluded. “And you’ll point him out. You’ll say it out loud to yourself. You’ll tell each other. You’ll point Jesus out to the students arriving tomorrow. You’ll surprise the advisors by showing them Jesus, again and again and again. And then on Saturday, when all of us ‘GO,’ it’ll all start over once more. Five-thousand people leaving Purdue to tell everyone around them, ‘I saw Jesus.’”
The Triennium worship band provided music at the service, as they will for all the services at the event. The group is from Shepherd Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas and they are accompanied by Calvin Rogers, from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama, who stepped in to play keyboard when the band’s original keyboardist was unable to attend.
“In the pre-event time, everyone is in all their orientations so Monday night [commissioning service] is a communal time with the purpose of seeing this big event and the big picture,” said Gina Yeager-Buckley, associate for youth ministries at the PC(USA) and coordinator of PYT. “It’s very special to look at this group who has taken vacation, skipped work and have done all kinds of things to come volunteer at the event. There’s a big span in ages, from 20 to 75.”
Presbyterian Youth Triennium continues through Saturday, July 23. Presbyterian News Service will continue to post stories from the event and live event information can be found on Twitter via this link: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23pyt2016
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