2010 National Youth Conference of the Church of the Brethren
Fort Collins, Colo. — July 23, 2010
The NYC Band performed the theme song during every worship service at the National Youth Conference. Photo by Glenn Riegel
The following introduction to the theme song for National Youth Conference, “More than Meets the Eye,” was written by theme song composer Shawn Kirchner of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren. His remarks are addressed to the Church of the Brethren youth as they gathered at NYC in Fort Collins, Colo.:
It is a very special thing that you are here today. It means many things. It means that you can travel ungodly distances in a tour bus on zero sleep, eating nothing but Skittles, and survive. It also means, on a more serious note, that the church is still alive–that for 2,000 years an unbroken line of people, of disciples, have kept the teachings and examples of Jesus alive in this world.
That is no small thing. The things Jesus said and did were revolutionary 2,000 years ago, and they are just as revolutionary today. That’s because although culturally and technogically things have changed so much in the last 2,000 years, human nature has not changed. We have to make the same kinds of decisions people made way back then–to choose based on self-interest or for the common good. The temptations of prestige, reputation, power, fame, wealth, and beauty are just as strong as they ever were. The teachings and example of Jesus shine a bright and challenging light into the hard-core, nitty gritty, rubber-hits-the-road reality of our lives. Just as revolutionary today as 2,000 years ago.
Three hundred years ago, a handful of people in Germany were worried that the essential Jesus was being lost in the churches around them. They met privately to pray and worship, to study the scriptures, and to share their thoughts about faith. They believed that the church needed renewing, and they took the outside-the-box, rule-breaking step of showing their recommitment to the way of Jesus by getting baptized again. At that time it was customary to baptize infants, and for an adult to be baptized again was actually against the law. But they did it anyway, in the Eder River, thereby joining the ranks of the Anabaptists–those who were again-baptized.
They gave themselves no denominational name, just calling each other “brother” and “sister.” After some of these people immigrated to America, seeking religious freedom, they began to be referred to by others as “Dunkers” because of their manner of baptizing, or as “German Baptists” or as “German Baptist Brethren.” When successive generations of Brethren finally began switching over to speaking English, and because new converts didn’t speak German, after many years of long debates at Annual Conference the denomination finally got its current name “Church of the Brethren” in 1908. That’s us. That’s who we are, and where we came from.
For more than 50 years our denomination has given a gift to its youth. Every four years, the church leaders have invited them to “come up to the mountain.” For people of faith, the mountain has traditionally been seen as a place of spiritual renewal, of revelation, of discovery.
Maybe this week you will see things in a different light than you ever have before, maybe you’ll discover something new about yourself. Maybe you’ll find your old friendships deepening in a beautiful way, as well as new, life-giving friendships, or even romance. Maybe your faith will come to life in a way you’ve never dreamed of, and your life will have a new direction and purpose that fills you with joy. Whatever is in store for you this week, may it be filled with blessings.
Getting asked to write the NYC theme song is a great honor and a huge responsibility. Did I say scary? The conference theme, “More than Meets the Eye,” is a wonderful description about how we, in all our ordinariness, faults and all, can truly make a difference when Jesus’ message and example lives inside of us, informing our thoughts and actions. But the phrase “More than Meets the Eye” also got me thinking about Jesus.
Many songs that we sing about Jesus today cast him in the light of a hero, or a champion, or sometimes as someone even closer than the closest friend. But when he walked the earth, and in the eyes of the people he grew up with, it was different.
Jesus was more than meets the eye. His teachings and his example were revolutionary–incredibly comforting to some, incredibly challenging and even offensive to others. And sometimes, in a strange way, they were both comforting and challenging at the same time.
Jesus offered people ways out of their predicaments that caused them to grow. Some welcomed this with all their hearts, and some resisted it with all their might. He challenged people to stop propping up their own sense of righteousness by judging others. Boy, did that make them mad. He asked people to rise above the surface, survival, me-first attitude that governs us and our society so often. He asked people to look deeper, beyond themselves, to discover a spiritual outlook on life that caused them to care for others outside their own circles as much or more than they cared for themselves.
Did you know that one of the reasons the early church grew so fast was because of hospitals? (No I’m not mentioning this because of the healthcare crisis. : ) I learned this from Brethren theologian Virginia Wiles. The early Christians established hospitals to care for those in need. It was revolutionary that they would care unconditionally for others outside of their own family or social circles. Inspired by Jesus, who didn’t pay attention to rank or position, needless rules, or who was “in” or who was “out,” something truly special was going on–something more than meets the eye.
Who was the essential Jesus, the Jesus the first Christians knew, that the early Brethren hoped to rediscover? The guy who got all this going, so that 2,000 years later we’re all here at the mountain asking this question? Let’s spend our lives finding out….
The News Team for the 2010 National Youth Conference (NYC) includes photographers Glenn Riegel and Keith Hollenberg, writers Frank Ramirez and Frances Townsend, “NYC Tribune” guru Eddie Edmonds, Facebooker and Twitterer Wendy McFadden, website staff Amy Heckert, and news director and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
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