There the angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. (Exodus 3:2)
I have a couple of confessions for you today.
The first is this: I spent much of my college career as a part of a campus ministry heavily influenced by Third-Wave Pentecostalism. Speaking in tongues. Running in the Spirit. Worship that lasted for hours on end. It spoke – and in many ways, still speaks – to my soul in ways that no other worship style does. Though I’m decided Lutheran in my theology, that experience, filled with imagery of the Holy Spirit as fire, is deeply seated in my formation.
The second confession is that, since a child, I’ve been obsessed (in an entirely non-criminal kind of way) with fire. Camp fires. Fireworks. Grills. Flambé. All of it.
So it’s no surprise to me, or anyone else, that when I arrived at Trinity and Capital with the opportunity to redevelop our programming, fire imagery came to mind. That’s how Trinity Summer Sampler became Sustain the Flame and connected with other events: Spark (short visits with youth groups in churches and on campus) and Ignite (an overnight retreat every February).
Now, though, it’s clear to me that God’s foresight was well beyond my insight.
You see, when you stare at a campfire long enough, you notice how it adapts to new environments and new materials. A bit of tinfoil left from the mountain pie creates bright green flame. Wet wood fosters more smoke. And yet, as long as there’s a bit of oxygen and some kind of fuel, the heat continues to burn. The flame sustains.
When COVID-19 hit, my heart sunk because I knew Sustain the Flame’s on campus experience was at risk. Yet, with incredibly insightful and technologically savvy students, they said: Why not continue the conversation online? Their optimism and ideas were the oxygen we needed.
A new environment. A new material. And yet, with that oxygen and the fuel of God’s mission, the flame sustains.
More than we ever could before, we’re introducing youth to Trinity and Capital’s community and expanding that roster to include leaders from our synodical and churchwide organization, from camping ministries and campus ministries, all of whom have youth’s faith formation not just in their wheelhouse, but in their heart.
Even when the world changes almost overnight, God sustains the flame of faith, and so Sustain the Flame will continue to empower students to explore their vocations.
So I invite you to share this message with the youth in your lives: in your churches, in your families, in your schools. The content will be broken into different bits for them to digest, and if they’re not available at noon every day of the week, the videos will remain on the Kerns Religious Life Facebook Page and YouTube for on demand viewing after they premiere.
I also encourage you to share it with others and to participate yourselves. Though we’re focused on youth, the reality is we’re all on a journey of vocational exploration. This content, and these presenters, are engaging and inspiring for people of all ages and at all stages of life.