There is a particular cultural outlook that continually reappears in the Bible but never seems to find its way into contemporary outlooks among most Christians today. The outlook of which I speak is a generational outlook. In the Bible, the customary mode of thinking is not to simply fixate upon one’s own generation but to always think of past and future generations as well. This is readily apparent in the lectionary reading for this upcoming Sunday, but I doubt many preachers will even consider mentioning this outlook as they discuss the song of praise known as Mary’s Magnificat. Nevertheless, Mary begins her song by framing that very moment within the span of generations. She declares, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” She then continues to speak of a God whose mercy extends “from generation to generation.” She ends by placing all of Israel within a generational continuum as she remembers the promise God “made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
To some, such words may seem like the quaint verbiage of ancient times with little import for today, but maybe it is time to pause and reflect more deeply on whether something of profound moral significance has been lost with a current mentality that unconsciously focuses only on the present generation. For instance, would our churches presently be in what psychologist and climate activist Margaret Klein Salamon refers to as “emergency mode” if we seriously contemplated the kind of climate-wrecked world our younger generation is currently inheriting? Instead of a business-as-usual attitude, would we instead have an urgent, laser-like focus on addressing the threats their generation faces? For those in churches today, now would be a good time to learn from the wisdom of Mary and think in terms of a God who cares for each generation to an extent that has revolutionary implications. Indeed, Mary praises a God who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones.”
In light of Mary’s Magnificat, a new initiative launched by the UCC Council for Climate Justice and a number of faith organizations has particular relevance. The initiative is called “Justice for #Each Generation.” It is a call for more than a thousand sermons to be preached in solidarity with the 21 youth who are currently suing the federal government in seeking accountability and action for the damage done to our climate. If you are still looking for a source of Advent hope, these youth are it.
One of the youth is Kiran Oommen who is the son of the Rev. Melanie Oommen of First Congregational UCC in Eugene, Oregon. Melanie writes with eloquence about the prophetic actions of the youth. She asks, “What does it look like to live hope when the very fate of our planet is at stake?” In giving her own response, she declares, “In the enduring hope of those young plaintiffs, our God abides.”
The story of these youth uplifts the spirit while also awakening the conscience. It is a story easily related to the profound moral imperatives of a generational outlook and a God whose love encompasses the past, present, and future.
For clergy who incorporate into a sermon these courageous youth seeking justice, make sure your sermon is counted at www.eachgeneration.org.