By: The Rev. Dr. James Moos
Executive WCM, and Co-Executive of Global Ministries
I am very privileged to travel to many places in the word and to meet young people of various cultures. And I am very privileged to be with you today here at Kwansei Gakuin. Thank you for receiving me. As Junior High School students, you know that age matters in our world.
The older you are, the more you get to do and the greater amount of responsibility you can take on. Small children can’t cross the street all alone. Eleven year olds can’t get driver’s licenses. And Junior High students don’t get hired as police officers.
Many things are age appropriate. In Japan as in the United States, you have to be of a certain age to watch certain movies or play certain video games. Although some of them aren’t appropriate for any age.
With age comes experience. And with experience comes maturity. And those with more experience and maturity get greater freedom and responsibility. As a little boy growing up, I always complained that my older sister got to do things that I couldn’t. She got to go to summer camp; she got to do many things with her friends. My parents told me it was because she was older than I was. When I got that old, I’d be able to do the same things she did.
Age matters. And the bigger, the more important the task, the more necessary experience and maturity are. And nothing is more important than doing God’s work in the world. So when God has a job to do, it must take a huge amount of experience and maturity. And sometimes it seems that only old people can do God’s work. Biblical characters like Noah and Moses are usually depicted as old men with long, grey beards. It gives the impression that God would ask young people to do small things, but nothing big and important.
It’s true that in some areas of life youth have an advantage. Like technology. I grew up without computers, smartphones, email and Facebook. So now when I have technology problems, I go to someone who’s younger. Sometimes I even ask for help from Junior High school students. When it comes to technology, the young are usually more skilled than the old.
The young also do better in sports. You don’t see people my age playing professional baseball. It’s mostly people in their 20’s. And in gymnastics, the best athletes are still teenagers. In sports, the young have an advantage.
But that’s usually not the case. For really important things in life, it often takes many years of experience. When I fly back to America, I don’t want a 12 year old pilot. I want a pilot who has been flying planes for a long, long time.
Or, to lead an entire nation is a big, important job. But not even a 40 year old has ever had that job in either of our countries. The average age at which a U.S. president has taken office is 55. In Japan, the average age of a Prime Minister upon taking office is even older—it’s 61.
But it’s not the case that God only calls old people to do big jobs. God does not practice age discrimination. God calls the young not just for small things. God calls youth to do big and incredibly important jobs.
In the Bible there is David. When he was probably the age of some of you here today, God chose him to be the next king of Israel. And Samuel was still a boy when God called him to be one of the greatest prophets.
Or, there was Mary the mother of Jesus. We don’t know exactly how old Mary was when the angel announced that she would have a child who would save the people. But she was probably a teenager.
And in our scripture lesson, the Apostle Paul writes to a young person named Timothy. He tells Timothy not to be ashamed of his young age. Timothy is called to set a good example of faith, even to those who are much older.
Age matters when it comes to driving cars or being the Prime Minster of Japan. But age doesn’t matter when it comes to doing the far more important work that God calls us to do.
Rev. Mensendiek and I serve on behalf of a mission agency called Global Ministries, which works all over the world. Global Ministries was started over 200 years ago. But it wasn’t started by old women and old men. It was started by young people. It was started by teenagers at a school much like Kwansei Gakuin. God called them to faithful service, and they responded faithfully. Over two centuries later, their work is still being carried on by people of all ages.
Today, God calls you to do important things. God calls you to live in faith, in love, in hope. God calls you to work for justice. God calls you to live in service to others. God calls you to set a good example. And the time to respond to God’s call isn’t years from now when you’re old enough. You’re old enough right now.
Sometimes age does matter. Some people are too old to do gymnastics. Some people are too young to fly airplanes. For many things in life, age matters. But not when it comes to serving God in the church and in the world. However old we are, we are exactly the right age to do God’s work.
Some day you will be old enough to drive, to vote, to attend the university. Someday you will be old enough get married and have children. Those are all important things. But the most important thing of all is to serve God in the world. And the good news is that you are old enough to do God’s work right now.
You don’t have to wait 10 or 20 years to make a real difference. You don’t have to wait until you have grey hair to speak words of hope and love, or to work for justice. You can do all of those things right now. And not only can you do those things, God calls you to do them.
You may be familiar with the girl Malala, who is from Pakistan. Girls were not allowed to go to school where she lived. Malala felt strongly about the importance of education for girls, so at age 11, she took action. She wrote a blog in which she stressed the importance of education for girls. The local authorities were unhappy with her. They wanted her to stop, and they tried to make her stop.
At age 15, Malala boarded a bus and a man came on and asked for her by name. He then pulled a gun and fired 3 shots, one of which hit her in the head. Malala spent a long time in the hospitals in Pakistan and in England recovering. Now she has become a spokesperson for the rights of children all around the world. She has especially continued her work on the rights of girls to receive a good education. Recently, at age 17, Malala was chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the youngest recipient ever of the world’s most prestigious award. She was old enough to make a difference, and so are you.
I read that Kyodan sponsored a youth camp in August to study the issue of discrimination against the buraku people, and to discuss the need for their liberation. In Japan, in the United States, in every nation there are oppressed people in need of justice. Malala shows that young people can make a difference.
There are many important issues that you as youth can be involved with. The Bible teaches that God created the heavens and the earth, and all that God made is good. But now God’s good creation is being destroyed by global warming, by nuclear radiation and other forms of pollution. God calls us, God calls you, to care for the environment. And Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed. But everywhere there is violence. Whatever our age, God calls us to work for peace, for justice, for forgives, and for reconciliation. We are all old enough to do God’s work.
In a many of areas of life, age matters. Maybe someday one of you will become a pilot, and you will fly a plane that carries me between the United States and Japan. That will take many years.
But when it comes to serving God, every age is the right age. No one is ever too young, or too old, to do God’s work of love and hope and justice. As Jr. High School students, you are exactly the right age to do God’s work.