Saturday, November 26, 2016

Zechariah's Song of Hope

I am a sucker for Christmas carols. And yes, even during Advent (I know some people who would shun me for conflating Christmas and Advent). I look forward to Christmas music as early as Halloween, although I have just enough self control to wait until November to start listening to it. I used to try to wait until after Thanksgiving, like everyone else, but then I figured, “who am I kidding?” I am the victory of American marketing.

On top of my already lively enthusiasm for Christmas music, being a father adds even more value. I get a kick out of inserting my children's names into Christmas carols… you know the classics, like, “I Saw Bonnie Kissing Santa Clause” and “Henry the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It’s hilarious (at least to me).

But I get that there something wrong with our “Christmas spirit.” I get that Christmas should do more than just give us warm feelings by the fireplace. I will freely admit the cognitive dissonance in my superficial enthusiasm for Christmas music and my conviction that we have allowed the real anticipation of Christmas in Advent to be domesticated by our nostalgic yuletide glee and “everything’s bright and merry” attitude, and in doing so, we have missed the revolutionary claims of Advent.

How different are our Christmas songs and advent hymns from the songs of anticipation sung by Mary and Zechariah in Luke 1? Listen to what Zechariah sang when his lips were opened to sing the hope of Christ’s coming to be heralded by his child, John.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79)

This is more like a battlecry than a Christmas carol! Zechariah isn’t singing “have a holly jolly Christmas,” he’s crying out and saying “God is rescuing us from our enemies so we can fearlessly serve and worship God!” It’s anything but domesticated and it’s anything but superficial. Zechariah’s song is drenched in hope.

Why is it, though, that even after reading this song, our experience of Christmas still resonates more with Rudolph than with Zechariah? Perhaps it’s because we’re too comfortable to understand the real unbridled hope of Advent.

Let’s rewind a little and widen our lens to the larger context in which Zechariah’s song shows up. Zechariah was a good guy and a successful guy. He was a priest and an important one, at that. He was married to a good woman, Elizabeth who herself, a defendant of Aaron, was born of a priestly line. The text says that, “both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6). So, he’s living large, you might say… at least for a priest. He’s got it going for him. And on top of that, Zechariah was just chosen to burn incense in the temple. It says, “he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:9). This was a rare and prestigious responsibility a priest could only expect to receive about once in a lifetime. It musty have been a great honor. So Zechariah’s an important priest with important responsibilities, married to a woman from a respected priestly family. How much better could it get? How much more faithful could someone be? You could see how it might only make sense that John, the herald of the coming Messiah would be born of this family.

But just in care you were beginning to think that John’s birth was gonna be just another natural product of Zechariah’s high standing or good fortune, there’s a hitch. The story is interrupted. Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, is “barren.” They can’t have children. Culturally, this was a real mark of shame, even for a family with so many other honors in their life. Their barrenness would have been, for them, an immanent and constant source of anxiety and grief. With all the other things going on in their life—the blessing of high standing, the honor of offering incense in the temple—this is where the angel meets him. While he’s offering incense by himself in the temple, possibly unable to be fully present in the moment because of his grief, the angel greets him there and addresses his shame.

The angle does not meet him in all the possibility surrounding his life, but in the impossibility. The angel says to him, “do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. ...even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God..." (Luke 1:13-16). The angel interrupts what was a story about Zechariah with a story of promise. Not only will Zechariah have a son, impossible as that is, but this son will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Zechariah is silenced.

This great priest, faithful as they come, is speechless (literally!) in disbelief.

Now widen the lens, one more time, to the story in which this story appears—the story of Israel. Israel is the chosen people of God, chosen to be the people from which the salvation of the world will come, chosen to be the people from whom the Messiah will come to bring peace and wholeness and the presence of God to the world. But, again, in case you thought the coming Messiah and salvation were just gonna be natural products of Israel’s faithfulness and chosen-ness, in case you thought that the Messiah was just gonna be the end of a straight line running from Abraham through David, by the time this promise if made to Zechariah, Israel is under Imperial oppression… and not for the first time. Israel’s history is hardly a story of progress. It’s really a tragic story of a people moving from one form of oppression to another. Whenever it seems like the people are making progress, when it seems they’re being faithful, they regress and revert and end up right back in the same hopelessness all over again.

Just in case you were tempted to think that the coming of the messiah and the kingdom of God were just extensions of Israel's history, the story is interrupted! It is interrupted, for Zechariah, with the announcement that his son is coming, " turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (1:17).

It is in this hopelessness that the promise is made and the anticipation of salvation is proclaimed.

This is where Zechariah's song enters the story; not in the possibility of Zechariah's faithful action and not in the power of Israel's religious commitment, but in the silencing of God through Roman occupation, the silence of Zechariah, and the impossibility of human action. It is not in what is becoming in the world, but what is coming into the world!

What Zechariah is given, and what makes his song so powerful, is hope. And this hope is not optimism.

Optimism is about “potential,” the potential of the present to become the future we want. Optimism is about progress. Optimism looks at the situation and tries to find the silver-lining, to find the parts of the present that might contribute to the future. It is forced to look around or behind or beyond the hopelessness. But the gospel is not a story of progress. In fact, whenever it seems like the people are making progress, it gets reverted and things regress. The gospel looks the darkness of the present right in the eye and calls it what it is. The gospel is about hope.

Hope shows up where there is no potential.

Cornel West once said, “I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” Hope is about God’s coming into the world, not the world’s potential for becoming. The gospel is about hope… hope not for progress, but for interruption… for resurrection.

You see, resurrection is not a natural development. It doesn’t come through progress. Resurrection happens when death and failure are as real as can be. Resurrection is a word spoken where silence is all there is. And it’s out of that kind of silence that Zechariah sings his Advent hymn.

"God has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them."

"Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors.”

"...To grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The Advent season is filled with words like "Joy" and "Hope." And these words are essential responses to the reality that we anticipate. But in this Advent season, let us remember that it is in weakness that God meets us. It is not that God expects us to ascend from our pain into joy, or to simply muster some hope from within ourselves. Instead, the joy and the hope of the coming of God breaks upon us and interrupts our pain and our weakness with the announcement that we will be saved. Advent is the unbridled hope of God’s coming into even the worst and most hopeless of situations. In this sense, Advent is truly revolutionary. And if we believe it in our bones, that God is coming into this messed up world, we might cry out the same way Zechariah did.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Trumped-Up Generational Division in America

There has been a lot of focus on the divisions in our country that have been revealed through the presidential election. With Donald Trump winning really only one demographic (namely, white people, especially uneducated white males) while performing dismally among so many other minority demographics (example: a staggering 8% of black voters voted for Trump), plenty of attention has been given to the divisions in this country--between white and black, male and female, rural and urban, etc. There is one division, though, that has yet to be satisfyingly addressed: the generational division. And yet, it has been one of the most explosive divisions in the few days following the election. 

In the Anti-Trump protests that have drawn thousands upon thousands to the streets of cities all across the United States, the dominant distinction is generational. I have not seen any data on this, but it appears that the protestors are diverse in all demographics--gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.--save for one. The overwhelming majority of those involved in the protests are young people, under the age of 35.

Now, given that most protests are dominated by young people, one could shrug off this observation. But the ubiquity of young people in the various protest movements we've seen in recent history-- whether it be Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, or the Dakota Pipeline protests--is exactly the reason we should be paying attention to this division. That, and the fact that 63% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted against the President-Elect.

These youthful protests have produced a lot of condescension from older generations, especially but not exclusively among those who voted for Donald Trump. Memes have been created, some more mocking and dismissive than others, associating the protests with immaturity. Conservatives as well as Liberals have lofted critiques of the protests that subtly, if not explicitly, presuppose their own more "experienced" and stoic perspective to be the more wise and rational approach.

Now if any other hegemonic demographic called out against another with such presumptuous criticism (and it happens all the time), there would be an outcry, a moral charge of discrimination. When white people criticize, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement with statements like, "why don't they just obey the police," we can easily recognize the problems with which the criticism is fraught. We see that the criticism is racially charged and nuanced. But when older generations criticize younger generations, we rarely address it on the same level.

Why is this? Perhaps it is because many of us have embraced that fact that white people are, in a sense, cultural outsiders to the black experience. Men are cultural outsiders to women's experience. But, we assume, because we were young too once, we are insiders to their experience. Our own nostalgia is our window into their world. We understand them, but we grew out of that phase.

Think about it. How often is Black Lives Matter compared and criticized according to the standards of the Civil Rights Movement? How often do people compare the protest movements of contemporary America to those of the 1960's and the vietnam era? ALL THE TIME!

How does such a presupposition emerge? It has something to do with how we interpret human experience in general. The dominant viewpoint, at least since the beginning of the 20th century, is that human life progresses through stages from childhood to adulthood, generally speaking, on a scale of improvement... we call this "maturity." Now when we say "maturity" in this way, we're not just talking about the biological fact that human bodies get older. Through the wisdom of developmental psychology and its neurobiological analogues, we have ascribed a much more qualitative value to our notion of maturity. Maturity, as we have come to see it, is actually metaphorical--it speaks beyond the brute fact of growth and points to an ascending rationalism and a particular mode of cultural existence. According to Chris Jenks, "Such metaphoricity all speaks of an essential and magnetic relation to an unexplicated, but nevertheless, firmly established adult world. This adult world is assumed to be not only complete, recognizable and in stasis, but also, and perhaps most significantly, desirable." Jenks continues on to say that, for someone to continue with this assumption would be "to invite the charge of ethnocentrism, and deservedly so!" (Later, Jenks coins the term "gerontocentrism" to specify his term... all this is in his book, Childhood 2nd edition, pp 8-9). This adult-centered "ethnocentrism" is a real safeguard against having to risk taking young people's perspective seriously on its own right.

In treating childhood and youth as a "stage of development" we can always assume we know all about young peoples' experience because we were there once.

Adults' presumptive cultural-insider-ship has protected them from having to truly consider the disruption of these youth movements as a source of new meaning to inform new policy and new direction for the country. But we old folks (I'm 31 now, so I can say that) need to stop protecting ourselves with these assumptions. We need to start opening ourselves to the possibility that we can no more understand young peoples experience than a white person can actually understand a black person's experience. This will, perhaps ironically, allow for more empathy. Without our presuppositions, we are forced to listen charitably. Defamiliarizing ourselves from our own nostalgic presuppositions, taking young people seriously in their own right, will allow movements like this to have a real and constructive affect on our political imagination. And, if you're paying attention, you know our political imagination could use a little help right about now.

A Prayer for an Honest Unity

[A portion of the Pastoral Prayer from November 14, 2016 at First United Methodist Church of Toms River]

This has been a long season.

We just went through a presidential election that has left us exhausted. We were worn down by negativity, fear mongering, specters of corruption, and dismissive condescension.  And on the morning of November 9th, when we ALL wanted for it to just be over, we woke up in a country even more divided and reeling than it already was.

Some are grieving and some are celebrating, and in the midst of our plurality of reactions, God, our trust in and toward one another--in the church and perhaps even in this congregation--is compromised.

But God, you have called us together. It was you who prayed that we would all be "one." So bring us together. Bring us together as salt and light in this world. Breathe into us the life we need so that we might be patient with one another, that we will learn to validate one another and not mock… do what must be done so that we will be united… and so that our unity will be honest and genuine. Let our unity include the marginalized and not only our "tribe."

Reconcile us.

Convict us, comfort us, but do not let us lose sight of the fact that you have called us to follow YOU… and no one else. You have called us to serve YOU and no one else, for we cannot serve two masters. You have called us worship YOU, in joy and in sorrow, trusting in faith that yours , and no one else’s, is the power and the glory FOREVER.

Help us to get that right, this morning. Help us to worship you together.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

The Joy of Untamed Friendship

Yesterday, I had the great privilege of giving a lecture alongside my friend and mentor, Kenda Creasy Dean, on "The Joy of Untamed Friendship" at Yale Divinity School in New Haven Connecticut. The lecture was part of the "Adolescent Faith & Flourishing" project, part of a larger research project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, being done at Yale through the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.

You can watch the archived feed of the lecture below. Enjoy!

Also, keep an eye out for the forthcoming video interviews of Kenda and me on the YMI YouTube channel.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How to Think Theologically About Youth Ministry

Youth workers haven’t always been famous for deep theological reflection.

 In fact, youth ministry has been blamed by some for the bigger problem of the church’s lack of theological depth. But even though youth ministry is more famous for games like “Chubby Bunny” (which, if I’m not mistaken, has been mostly banned) and other strange games involving food, there has been a shift—a “theological turn,” if you will, in youth ministry (see Kenda Creasy Dean and Andrew Root’s The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry).

Thinking theologically is more commonplace in youth ministry than ever before in the United States, as more and more youth workers are realizing the theological nature of the task of ministry. It’s not strange anymore for a youth pastor to know something about John Calvin or Paul Tillich or to find youth workers having theological conversations at their conventions and conferences.

 But the theological turn in youth ministry is more than just a revival of theological interest. It’s not just about youth workers reading more theology and applying it to their situation. It’s about youth workers seeing their youth ministry itself as theological—as a place to learn more about God, and as an opportunity to attend to and share in what God is doing in the midst of what young people are actually experiencing.

 To be a good youth worker is not just to know what Karl Barth’s answer would be to a practical problem, it’s being able to see what God is doing and to participate in it, inviting young people to do the same. [Read More]

This article was originally published on Kindred Youth Ministry in October, 2016. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Let's Repent

When I was growing up, I remember being taught about repentance. In fact, as I recall, repentance seemed to find its way into just about every youth group lesson my youth pastor gave. Repentance was what Christianity was all about in my conservative evangelical context. And it wasn’t just that we should repent because it’d be good for us to do so. It was that if we didn’t repent, God was gonna punish us in hell for all eternity. I even remember, for one of our youth group lessons, one of the young people in the group simply stood and read Charles Spurgeon’s famous sermon, “Turn or Burn.” That was the whole lesson.
And that’s what repentance was. It was a “turning.” Turning away from sin. Reversing direction on the default path toward hell and damnation.
When I was older, I rejected this view. [Read More]

This article was originally published on the Progressive Youth Ministry Blog on October 13, 2016. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

In Blessing and Tragedy

[the following is the pastoral prayer prayed in worship at First United Methodist Church of Toms River on September 18, 2016] 

Loving God,

When we got up this morning, we were greeted by so many realities that are outside of our control. Some of those realities are graces, they are gifts. We woke to the brightness of a sun we did not create. We did nothing to make it rise. We woke with air in our lungs and the beauty of the world just outside our windows. Many of us even received the grace of coffee we didn’t have to make… mmmm…

God, we know that this is all a gift. We might tell ourselves we deserve this, that we worked for it, but in the end, it is all from you. So we offer you the praises we have with the breath you’ve given us, with these bodies you made, among the people you love.

And in the same breath, we are reminded of the many other tragic realities to which we also woke up this morning, realities that are also outside of our control. We are reminded of the suffering of people we love; of victims of violence all around the world and right here in New Jersey and New York. We are reminded of the realities of racism, of poverty, of disaster and sickness. We are reminded… perhaps even overwhelmed… by the brokenness around us—just as undeserved as our blessings.

We know, God—because of your self-revelation in Jesus Christ, who was crucified among us—that you are good.

You are good.

Rescue us, Lord, from this brokenness, into the blessing of your love. Make a way for us. Be with us and for us. Because we cannot do this on our own. Come to us this morning, Jesus. Greet us in blessing and hold us close in the tragedy. For we are your people, your children, and you are our loving God.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Our Authority Crisis

As I was clicking through Facebook this morning, I found myself reading an article about people who believe that the earth is flat... yes, like some did before Galileo. I can hardly believe that I read the whole article, but I couldn't help but find it fascinating. Maybe it's because of my involvement with Science for Youth Ministry, or maybe it's just because I'm fascinated by our culture's dismissive suspicion of academic scholarship and professional research.

As outlandish and (even) kooky as it might sound to most of us that there are still people who think the earth is flat, the bold skepticism that's representative of these people's view is pervasive. I think that the epistemic principles which allow for this kind of bold skepticism are the product of ubiquitous instant access to vast amounts of information via the internet. In other words, this is what happens when people can skip a rock across more information than they possibly have time (or tools) to dive into. "I read it on Wikipedia" is the mantra of a new class of "intellectuals." It seems that among some people, "I saw it on YouTube" is, apparently, seldom less credible than "I studied it at Stanford." When "knowledge" comes so easy, it becomes easier for people to dismiss those who have actually worked for the knowledge they have. I can afford to doubt Neil Armstrong because I can find alternative theories on Google. This is what I call the conflation of epistemic authority--the scholar, the researcher, the professor is now just one voice among the millions of voices I can pull up on my smart phone.

I've noticed that this is true in the church as well. The Pastor may have an M.Div. or even a doctorate, having devoted her entire life to the study of theology and biblical interpretation, but congregations are often reluctant to grant any interpretive authority to their Pastors.

Don't get me wrong. I know the spiritual authority that comes from being positioned behind a pulpit. I know that Pastors have power and I know the dangers of downplaying or denying that power. But there are always those who, having read the Left Behind series or heard a sermon from Francis Chan, are readily defensive toward their Pastor instead of open to hearing their Pastor's studied perspective. If you're a Pastor, I bet you know what I am talking about. Now, this is not all unhealthy. People should be empowered to challenge the claims of their Pastors. The church needs this. But we can't lose perspective on the difference between Wikipedia knowledge and hard earned researched knowledge. Debate is important, but we must be selective in regards to the sources we employ for our debates.

With all the information out there, who can we trust? In our confusion over epistemic authority, flashiness and, above all, simplicity have become king. Hard earned knowledge is no less authoritative than blogs, so let's trust whatever sounds the truthiest (a term coined by Stephen Colbert). This is, perhaps an explanation for why someone like Donald Trump could possibly be receiving any serious political hearing from the American public. How else can we explain the popularity of someone who makes absurd and untrue claims with such regularity?

Some will accuse me of being an elitist. Perhaps I am, to some degree. But I am not saying that researchers are always right in their conclusions. And I am not saying you have to have a Ph.D. to be able to argue with someone who has a Ph.D. What I am saying is that we have a crisis of authority on our hands and one of its symptoms is a pervasive distrust toward academic scholarship. However we decide to move forward, we should address this crisis. The world is complex, we need complex answers.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Hope in Thin Air

"What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life." These words are the first words of what has become a classic in Christian eschatology: Emil Brunner's Eternal Hope. And if his words are true, I cannot remember any time in my life when the air seemed so thin in the United States. We are haunted by distrust in our political system, even a sense of betrayal, as corruption threatens us from both the right and the left. We are still grieving the deaths of so many young people in Orlando, rooted in homophobia, hate, and discrimination. We wake up to the horrendous news of white police officers brutally murdering young black men and news of the violent and retaliatory murders of police in Dallas. Let us not even mention the wars (and rumors of wars) taking place all over the globe, in all of which we must claim complicity.

These are hopeless times. 

We have time and again struggled in vain to restore our trust in progress but it has become harder than ever, impossible even, to believe that the kind of change we need will come naturally through development. In a world that needs hope, we cannot breathe.

But this is just a time we need to be reminded that Christian hope is not something to which we must ascend, pressing through beyond hopelessness, but something that descends to us, in the midst of hopelessness, inviting us to pray for that which we cannot reasonably expect from progress. Christian hope knows that the air is thin but hopes nonetheless. We are invited to hope, even still; not with eyes closed to the darkness of the present, but with eyes open, tearfully lamenting the godforsakenness of our situation and grieving senseless loss of life through the logic of violence. Even in this death, the crucified God--God with us--descends to us. As Brunner reminds us, "...belief in progress as hope resting upon self-confidence is the opposite of the Christian hope, which is hope founded upon trust in God." (Eternal Hope, p. 10.)

"...The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matthew 24:44). Our hope is beyond expectation. "Belief in progress, hope in a better future, was an illegitimate child of Christianity," writes Brunner... "Humanity has a future because it awaits the coming of the kingdom of God in the future of its coming Lord" (p. 25).

So in a world held hostage by the logic of violence and death, when we pray for peace and reconciliation, we are praying for something absurd. But with the hope that meets us in hopelessness, let us pray nonetheless for what we cannot reasonably expect. Let us pray, even in this thin air, "come Lord Jesus, come."

Friday, June 10, 2016

God is a Teenager

God is a teenager.

How uncomfortable is this thought for you? I imagine that, for many, it's hard to take such a claim seriously. After all, teenagers are so...    well, what comes to mind for you? Immature? Unruly? Addicted to technology? Disruptive? Filled with turmoil? Troublesome? Self absorbed? These adjectives represent what has been so assumed by our culture that it's almost achieved the status of "common sense"--teenagers are a problem. Even well-meaning empathizers will concede the notion that teenagers are in transition and have a rambunctiousness, even if an admirable one. Whether we hold them in contempt or think we should be happy to "let teenagers be teenagers," it's just part of the fabric of our culture to assume that adulthood is essentially superior and that youth (or "adolescence") would be solved by a transition into adulthood. In our thinking, maturity is a qualitative term.

So of course it's strange to think that God could be a teenager. That would suggest, given our assumptions, that God is as problematic and irrational as a teenager. God can't be so self absorbed. God can't be so tumultuous. God can't be "in transition." But why are we so much more comfortable with the thought that God is an adult human? Every Christian who confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, confesses that God is a human--that (according to the hypostatic union) human being is taken up into the life and being of God, becoming God's. In Christian theology, it is not that Jesus is human and God is God, " the man Jesus, God is God" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ The Center, p. 45).

Whether or not we've come to terms with what it means (and I'm quite sure we haven't... and can't) there is something casual, in Christian theology, about the notion that God is a human being. And we're even ok with God being a baby. Every Christmas season we're joyfully confronted with images of the "Christ child," with "radiant beams" streaming from his holy face. God as the adult Jesus is fine, we may think, because he's wise and stoic. Baby Jesus is ok too because babies are sweet and innocent. But teenage Jesus!? That's harder to swallow.

All of these notions are assumptions. The fact is, babies are more than their innocence and they're not exactly easy. Adults are not necessarily any more "mature" (in the qualitative sense) or less "in transition" than teenagers. And teenagers, contrary to the conventional wisdom, don't have to be problematic--at least not any more problematic than the next human being. None of us are reduced to or determined by our transitionality. Youth is no more defined by transition into adulthood (i.e. “adolescence”) than adulthood is defined by transition into death. It is life and the depth of lived experience that gives meaning to human experience.

The claim that God is a teenager should be no more (or less) unsettling to us than the claim that God, in Jesus Christ, is human. After all, teenagers are no less human than adults.

The hypostatic union should be unsettling. It's scandalous to think that humanity, in all its brokenness and fragility, is taken up into the life and being of God. This has a way of transforming how we see humanity. The hypostatic union, after all, works in both directions. Not only is humanity taken into God, God is also taken into humanity. God assumes all human experience (infant, teenager, adult, male, female, transgender, disabled, etc). Our experience becomes God's so that God's experience and God's future becomes ours. What we discover is that humanity is not just a problem to be solved but, in Christ, it becomes a location for divine encounter.

To claim that God is a teenager is not theologically inaccurate. Indeed, it's important to do so. And not only because Jesus was, in fact, a teenager at one time, but because it allows us to see youth in a different light. It allows us to see teenagers not only as disruptive "adolescents" in transition to adulthood, but as a source of revelation.