I had just finished talking impassionedly about Hell and Heaven and Life After Death. I had used a modern, clean, inspiring presentation on Canva, full of subtle sunrise scenery, and had even showed a Bible Project video about Heaven & Earth.
I had aced this Zoom Youth Group meeting. These kids were now so informed about our Christian beliefs. Pretty much ready for immediate Confirmation… anybody see a Bishop? Let’s make honest Episcopalians out of ‘em.
I was patting myself on the back for clarifying everything when the little black Zoom box labeled Natalies_iphone started to speak.
“Um, Megan, could you please go over the part about Jesus being a sacrifice? I didn’t really get that part.”
Really, Natalies_iphone? The very foundation of our faith? The reason we are called Christians and can even talk about heaven and hell and the kingdom of God in sans-serif bullet points over a stock photo of the morning? That’s the part you’re asking me to elaborate on (but quickly, since we’re already five minutes over schedule and Ethan has to sign off to go to basketball)? Sure. Let me just distill 2000-plus years of theology into the next 30 seconds.
I saw a cartoon once where two fish meet each other in a fishbowl. One says, “How’s the water today?” and the other one says, “What’s water?” A better illustration comes from Good Omens by Neil Gaiman: “People in Trafalgar Square can’t see England.” This is me. I grew up a Trafalgar fish, soaking in all of this faith stuff, never really questioning it, because it just is.
I forget that Christianity is weird.
I mean, imagine that you're fourteen. You sign on to Zoom Youth, not because you're super into it, but more because your friends are there or your Mom is making you or something. You're greeted with this:
Hey, guys, how was school this week? Got any big exams coming up? Cool. Today we’re going to talk about a guy who came back from the dead a long time ago in preparation for you guys being able to ritually eat him and drink his blood so that you, also, can come back from the dead if you happen to die before the world as we know it comes to an end (which it will). Let’s get started with a round of Kahoot!
If I put myself in a youth’s shoes, it is very, very understandable to not really ‘get’ Christ being a sacrifice. We don’t offer sacrifices today – not even vegan alternatives – so there’s not really a good frame of reference. And if I’m honest, 90% of my reaction to the question was panic about whether I could do it justice.
But I tried. I outlined the concept behind animal sacrifices in the Old Testament and talked about how sacrificing lambs and other animals wasn’t super efficient because you had to keep re-upping all the time. Christ was a sacrifice once and for all, permanent, indelible, meaning all of our sins forever are paid for, meaning we don’t have to offer any lambs or rams or animal sacrifices ourselves, so if you hear Jesus referred to as the Lamb of God, that’s why. Plus, on top of that, he rose again, which means the concept of 'death' was broken and that’s why we can talk about heaven and hell and eternal life.
It wasn’t the most thorough explanation ever; it took less than a minute. I’m not sure that they all got it, but I’m not sure that we all fully do, either. This stuff is hard. I reminded myself that this will not be the only time in the lives of the youth in the group that they hear the foundational tenets of Christianity. I tried my best, appreciating Luke 12:12 all the more, and figured I could always field follow-up questions, if necessary.
“Does that help?” I asked.
“Yes, it does,” Natalies_iPhone said. “Thanks.”
Thanks be to God.
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