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President JOHN UPTON

from the on the Baptist Youth World Conference in Singapore The Baptist Youth World Conference held in Singapore was a five star

moment. Not only were the facilities five star but so were the worship, the focus and family groups, music, and speakers. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the BWA staff, the Local Arrangements Committee, Singapore Baptists, and the planning committee of the Youth Department. Their hard work created the perfect environment for the Spirit of God to come and fill the hearts of those present. Who will ever forget the physical movement of the floor as the youth celebrated in worship? The 2013 Baptist Youth World Conference will remain one of those special highlights of this quinquennium for me. Our general secretary, Neville Callam, and I were talking after the

conference and he wondered aloud what it was that those who attended the conference carried home with them. While I thought about what the youth might have taken away it occurred to me to ask myself what I had experienced and what I had taken away. Let me share one of my “take-aways.” It occurred to me that most of God’s new movements begin as youth led movements. This is true worldwide. Jesus began his ministry at the very early age of 30 and changed the course of spiritual history. How would one at such a young age choose to start such a movement? He might have blown us away with radical new teachings in a public square of some kind. He might have taken his place among the homeless, become one of them, and we would hear about how this visitor was astounding them with radical changes for the sick and infirmed. Who would have expected that he would begin his mission by coming to essentially a youthful event, a wedding, and saving the reception while all family and youthful friends were dancing and making the floor vibrate. John’s Gospel says that is how it started. It was a kind of wedding

reception. , If this were a typical wedding of that time, it would have lasted seven days and nights; a wedding was a happy echo of the seven days of creation. So, for a week they answered by laughing, drinking, eating, making music, dancing those great whirling Jewish dances, holding lifted hands moving in and out and round and round. You must picture Jesus dancing like that. He would have been very at home at the youth conference in Singapore. Look at him, celebrating life. Why do we make him so pale and so grim

about what is wrong with us when he is also so engaged with human joy, creativity and vitality? I am very grateful that Jesus did not come just for what is sick and sad about us. His concern is far greater than our pathologies. He comes for our vitalities, too. He comes to our best dreams, moves in our strengths, lives in the good in us, joins our hands to those we love and leads in the great creativity dance. I am glad he comes in our failures, in our fears, in our sorrows but also in every glad prospect of our work, our loves, and our being truly alive. Of course, the human problem is these vitalities run so short in us. Joys

fade. The sense of purpose we had goes blurry. Our strength fails, love weakens and faith, often, seems like not much is left. Like that reception, the juice just runs out. Jesus, being the young man he was, understood new beginning in a way

older leaders often forget. Much of that early fire in us fades in time from both the heart and mind. After years of leading it is easy to grasp what is needed or wrong with things but we are seldom stirred with freshness anymore. So, this young man asked the steward to dip his cup into the six huge vessels of water used for ritual washing and take it to the head waiter. Each container held 20 to 30 gallons of water, more than 180 gallons used for being religiously cleaned.


We do like to make sure that cleansing is emphasized. But this young man does something more. What was water when dipped became something warm, pungent, velvety, and dark red. A 17th

Century poet wrote, “The

conscious water saw its God and blushed.” Why was that necessary? Jesus knew that being

made clean in the end is about participating in God’s lavish joy. Jesus wasn’t just saving a reception. He was lavishing on them and on us the sense of God’s joy among us and God’s presence in Christ is just like that. It is potent, rousing, strong, antiseptic, dangerous, requires discipline, stirs passion, imparts courage, lowers barriers, makes friends, infuses us to go and infuse the world with how much joy there is here. It is important to remember it doesn’t always come in party clothes. There will be a night when Jesus will tell his disciples that the wine they drink will be his blood poured out for them for the forgiveness of sin, because the gift is never about easiness. It is about joy. Who would have thought that people like us would be so afraid of God’s joy? Have our lives been so long, so dull, so disappointing? Thank goodness God has placed the youth among us and Christ is among them. He will have us pause in the work of the mission long enough that through them he can give us strong, wonderful surprises. Surprises like the fresh vision of our young people who really do believe God’s will can be done on earth as it is done in heaven. At

the Baptist Youth World Conference in

Singapore I was invited as a guest to come and drink of the new life the Spirit of God offered and to participate in a great joy. Thank you.

A Personal Reflection

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