Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Good morning. I guess I really don’t have to introduce myself too much to you because I’m pretty sure my mother has been waxing poetic about me and my mad clergy skills for the past several months. If for some reason you somehow missed all of the hype and lead-up to my coming… I’m Ariel Williams, Cherie’s daughter. I’m a seminarian in my final stage of the candidacy process – and I’m a Lutheran. I was briefly Episcopalian for a few years in Texas, but it didn’t stick. As my priest at the time told me, Lutherans are Lutheran because of their theology. Episcopalians are Episcopalian because of their liturgy. You’re such a Lutheran, Ariel. I’ll never convert you.” So, thank you for inviting my Lutheran self here to worship with you all and for giving me this opportunity to share God’s Word. I am blessed and I’m honored.
Over the past week or so, as I was preparing this sermon, I kept coming back to the same thought… I’ve got NOTHING! And this is my mom’s church so I can’t just show up and say “Jesus Loves You, Amen.” Crud… what am I going to do???? My mom has most likely told this congregation that I’m about one step away from being a rock-star and I’m going to be terrible! This is a Shakespearian tragedy waiting to happen!!!!
Fortunately, as she often does, the Holy Spirit made an appearance and that tragedy has been averted. So, as I read the text this past week the phrase that kept jumping out at me was the very first sentence – “To what will I compare this generation?”
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about generations lately. I was born in 1980 which straddles the line between Generation X and the Millennial Generation so I’ve never really felt like I fit one description or the other… I have characteristics of both. This past week several articles appeared in my facebook feed that addressed this and there is new claim that this is actually a Micro Generation, the Xennial Generation, which encompasses those like myself who straddle that line.
All of this has led me to think about how we classify and group ourselves. How we differentiate, isolate, and segregate groups of people based on when they were born and lived. Collectively assigning attributes and personality traits to groups of people born around the same time. According to some extremely academic and highly official internet research that I did this past week, there are 6 different generations of peoples who are currently alive.
There’s the Greatest Generation which is sometimes also known as the GI Generation – These peoples were born between 1901 – 1926. They fought and died in World War II and were young and formative during the Great Depression. This led to a strong model of teamwork and a strong sense of achievement and superiority. As Dr. Jill Novak stated: “Their Depression was The Great One; their war was the Big One; their prosperity was the legendary Happy Days. They saved the world and then built a nation.” Moral standards were uplifted, civic duty was honored and respected, and loyalty knew no bounds.
Next came the Mature Silents – these are people who were born from 1927 – 1945. This groups formative years occurred during an era of strong conformity. They fought in both Korea and Vietnam. Many early forms of activism came from this generation – Civil Rights, Feminists, Peace Demonstrators. This generation continued to hold to the moral standards and loyalty that was instilled in them by the Greatest Generation. It was not uncommon for someone to work for one company or institution for their entire career.
The Baby Boomers which are the products of the Greatest Generation and the Mature Silents came next. This generation spans from 1946 – 1964. As this group is SO large it is often split into two groups – the “save-the-world” revolutionaries or hippies of the 60’s & 70’s and the party-hardy career climbers or yuppies of the 70’s and 80’s. This is often referred to as the “me” generation or the “rock-and-roll” generation. In this generation women went to work and civil rights issues were brought much more to the forefront. Typical societal norms changed and moral standards began to shift. Divorce began to be widely accepted as did the norms of having intimate relationships outside of the confines of marriage.
Next came Generation X which is also sometimes called the Baby Bust. This generation was born between 1965 and somewhere around 1977-1980 (the end time is not super clear). These are the “latch-key kids” who grew up street-smart but isolated, often with divorced or career-driven parents. They are known for being entrepreneurial and very individualistic. Government and big business mean little to them. They want to save the neighborhood, not the world. This is also the generation that is often associated with having a chip on their shoulder – they claim to be misunderstood, and are known for their rampant cynicism. This group was raised in the transitional phase of written based knowledge to digital knowledge – most remember being in school without computers but had them introduced in middle school or high school. This generation averages 7 career changes in their lifetime, unlike previous generations who had few if any. They were later to marry, often after cohabitation, and quick to divorce. Single parenthood rose significantly with this generation.
Generation Y or Millennials – Born between 1980ish and 2000ish this generation has been nurtured by omnipresent parents (sometimes known as helicopter parents). They are optimistic and focused. They respect authority. Crime rates and teen pregnancy rates have fallen with this generation, however, with school safety problems; they must live with the thought that they could be injured or even killed at school, they learned early that the world is not a safe place. They schedule everything. They feel enormous academic pressure.
They have great expectations for themselves because they have always gotten a trophy and have always been told they can do anything. They have been told over and over that they are special and expect the world to treat them that way. They are incredibly digitally literate. Most have never known a world without computers! They get all their information and most of their socialization from the Internet. They tend to be assertive with strong views. They are used to having immediate answers and can be impatient for change to occur. They do not live to work, work is a means to live and experience life. Experiences are more valuable to them than possessions.
Finally, there is now Generation Z or the Boomlets – These are the children who have were born 2001 or later. They are so young there is not much of a collective cultural personality yet. What is of note is that in 2006 there were a record number of births in the US (I contributed one of them!) and 49% of those born were Hispanic. This will eventually change American societal behavior and culture as we have known and experienced it up to this point. The number of births in 2006 far outnumbered the start of the baby boom generation, and they will easily be a larger generation someday.
This means there are a lot of people with very different world views, very different priorities, very different ideals, different expectations, morals, and values all coexisting together. And not always super well. There is often misunderstanding and suspicion of one generation to another. Blame for the problems of society are thrown between the generations and age groups like darts.
In our text this morning Jesus in encountering a similar reality. He is met with many different groups of peoples all from different places and spaces with different ideals and accepted societal norms. The staunch and strict religious authority. The disciples of John the Baptist who are all trying to figure out exactly who Jesus is. The disciples of Jesus himself who are trying to figure out exactly who Jesus is. The mobs of people who are following him around trying to figure out exactly who Jesus is and what exactly is going on… I mean, is this guy a prophet, or the Messiah, did they all just join some weird mobile cult??? Seriously – what just happened???
Jesus addresses these questions as to who and what he is in metaphor… because as we often know… he is incapable of just giving a straight answer. Everything has to be a teachable moment. Thanks Jesus.
He tells them that this generation is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to one another “We played flute for you, and you didn’t dance…. Well, we wailed and you didn’t morn.” Because at that point in time children often played wedding and funeral games. The metaphorical children who wanted to play wedding played the flute but the others didn’t engage… the metaphorical children who wanted to play funeral wailed, but the others didn’t engage. Because they all wanted to do things their way. They wanted to play by their rules. They wanted to be in charge… any of that sound familiar???
Jesus then goes on to address the fault and questioning that society has found with both he and John the Baptist’s ministry. John came neither eating nor drinking and was accused of being demon possessed. Jesus came and ate and drank and befriended sinners and tax collectors and was accused of being a glutton and drunkard. They were both damned if they did… and damned if they didn’t. Does that mentality sound familiar?
Jesus then goes on to announce that Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds and offers a prayer to God giving thanks that wisdom has been hidden from the wise and intelligent and revealed to the infants. Those young ones who play and accept the world at face value and understand deep mystery and truth have so much wisdom to share, but their perspectives and understandings are often discarded and ignored. And likewise, the years and years of knowledge, wisdom, perspective and understanding of older generations are often laughed off as old fashioned, unenlightened, or out of touch by the younger generations.
The problem with this lack of regard for one another is that we will never coexist with one another well if we don’t grow in our appreciation and acceptance for each another. To be the body of Christ in the world means that we are called to engage as a collective unit – a colony of bees if you will – all working toward the common goal of spreading the love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ. There is no one generation that knows how to do this better than another. To reach the world we must work together. One person alone cannot bring about the inbreaking of God’s kingdom. It takes ALL of us.
This is not an easy task nor is it an easy life. Jesus goes on in the latter half of the text to explain that although this isn’t going to be all rainbows and sunshine and fluffy bunnies, God is with us as we go. The Rev. David Lose stated that: “God is the one who bears our burdens. God is the one who shows up in our need. God is the one who comes along side of us. Nothing demonstrates this more than the cross – God’s willingness to embrace all of our life, even to the point of death, in Jesus, to demonstrate God’s profound love and commitment, love and commitment that will not be deterred…by anything.”
God’s profound love and commitment will not be deterred by ANYTHING. Not even petty generations of squabbling unenlightened children who all think they know best. The Holy Spirit will continue to guide us as we journey together on this life of discipleship, helping us to learn from and appreciate one another, maybe just a little bit, as we go. Thanks be to God, Amen.