Tommy Navarre is a high school senior who will soon be graduating from Sunset High School in Beaverton, Oregon. He was a member of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Beaverton where he has served on the Eco-Reformation team that helped lead a congregational “Carbon Fast” during Lent last year. This year, Tommy offered the following meditation at a midweek worship service as the congregation focused upon the theme “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear” during the season of Lent.
My Fear and My Hope
Matthew 25: 35-40 says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
Since I’m the only non-adult who is doing one of these Lenten meditations, I tried to think of things that may be specific to kids or teenagers. When asking myself the question what makes kids scared, I said: “I know, homework!” While I’m sure I could stand here and talk about the horrors of homework for 7 minutes, I figured the pastors would like something a bit deeper.
The second issue that came to mind is one that has become quite closely linked with my faith: climate change. It also just happens that we in the younger generations will experience the damage of climate change disproportionately and it’s even affecting people today through flooding, fires, and drought. For all of us younger people, climate change is a scary reality.
And on more than one occasion, I have asked myself, how can love cast out the fear of climate change? To me, the answer to our government’s inability and unwillingness to address climate change often seems to be confrontation because nothing we’ve done so far has worked. How can I show love to those who gleefully destroy the planet?
And at this point, you might be wondering: “how does this all relate to Matthew chapter 25?” Good question. This verse is actually the verse I chose to read on my confirmation Sunday. It kind of happened by accident, because I was just flipping through the bible looking for verses, not finding anything that really stuck with me. But once I came across it, this verse struck me in a way that others didn’t. If you asked me to summarize my beliefs about politics and the world, I’d probably just read you this verse.
And when I become fearful about climate change, I see great importance. I can do everything I can to stop climate change, but at the end of the day, even if we magically stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, climate change would still affect our lives because we’ve already gone too far. And in all likelihood, we will see real, devastating effects.
It is when we see this devastation that Matthew 25: 35-40 holds the most importance and relevance. I see each part of these 6 verses as a fundamental aspect of human goodness that we will need to tap into. “I was hungry and you gave me food.” Famine is a widely reported consequence of climate change due to disruptions in food production. In times such as these, our generosity with food will be needed. “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” Drought is another consequence of climate change. In times such as these, we will need to be cognizant of our water usage and willing to share. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Wars over the aforementioned resources are likely to break out and there will be refugees. In times such as these, we need to welcome each other with open arms. I could go on with all of the necessary acts of goodness because, in times such as these, goodness is needed more than ever.
And for some reason, it’s comforting to me that people 2000 years ago were able to tap into this goodness. It gives me hope that today, we can do the same. By knowing and following Jesus, we can hope to champion justice and generosity just as he did.
This verse also helps me through another fear that affects not just youth but everyone who has ever had faith: that of doubt. I often describe my faith as somewhat of a rollercoaster because, at times, I’m more connected to my faith than ever. Other times, I feel almost guilty for being a person of faith. I see the devastation in the world, such as that with climate change, and wonder how a God can be good when we fight with each other and destroy the very planet that God calls good in the first 10 verses of the bible. I don’t like the idea that God can be good to some and not to others and the idea that God’s people could go so wrong.
Interestingly enough, some of the times when I doubt the most are the times when I’m most involved in church activities. For example, I would not say that it was strong, per se, but I definitely felt doubt in Houston this past summer. It was probably partly due to me just thinking about my faith constantly–it was a faith-based event, after all–and it was probably partly due to the speakers each night discussing and walking us through their doubts. Whatever the reason for my doubts, I know that I can come back to Matthew 25: 35-40 to ease those doubts and the fear that comes along with it. The compassion demonstrated in those verses helps me to justify my being a Christian when often times we see people distort Christianity to use it as a weapon. I think that my biggest doubt is always, in some way, related to me not wanting to associate myself with a religion that is used to belittle and oppress. I tend to feel responsible for the horrific actions of those who call themselves Christians. But when I feel this way, I turn to the compassion Jesus demonstrates throughout the Bible, and for me, there is no better example of this than Matthew 25: 35-40. So whatever the fear I have is, both in the larger world and in my personal life, I can turn to this verse to ease those fears and remind myself that God is compassionate and God’s people are generous, which gives me hope in times where it is needed most.
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