Twice a year, for the past ten years, I have served as a Chapel Speaker at Lutheran North High School. Throughout those years we have had various students attend that incredible school, and it has not only been an honor but a bit intimidating. Imagine a large gymnasium with bleacher seats and another 100 folding chairs placed in front of them. Every day the students of Lutheran North come into the gym and have a 20-minute chapel service led by a local Lutheran pastor or teacher giving the address. Did I mention that there are 650 students? Plus the faculty, plus the administrators, did I mention 650 9th – 12th graders who are eager and filled with energy and hormones and minds that are still developing and faith lives that are still growing and a million different things that are happening in their lives?
At precisely 9:20 a bell rings and the entire school comes into the gym and literally, in a matter of moments, they are all seated; a few announcements are made and then the introduction, “This morning our Chapel Speaker is Pastor Alan Schwieger from Immanuel in St Clair” there is the polite applause, and then I come to the podium, and there they are…650 high school students, absolutely silent and attentive.
What do you say to 650 students that will penetrate their busy lives and speak into their hearts in relevant and meaningful ways? This is what I do; I speak the truth. I have reminded them each time I have stood before them that they are loved with a love beyond their imagination that is found in Jesus. I remind them that God does have a purpose for their life, even if they haven’t figured it out yet. I assure them that there is grace and forgiveness. I try to encourage them to be loving and kind to each other because Jesus is loving and kind to us and we are to mirror that in ourselves to others. And every time I have been at Lutheran North to give a Chapel talk, I have promised them that I pray for them. I keep it simple, I keep it short, and I try to keep it real.
When I close with a short prayer and I say, “Now, go in peace, Amen” immediately, I mean instantaneously, 650 high school students are up on their feet and on their way to the cafeteria for a snack, for a quick chat with friends and are on their way to their next class. Did anything I said sink in? Did I help address a hurt? Help comfort a troubled conscience? Was someone assured of God’s unconditional love for them? I don’t know…I’ll leave that to God and His promise in Isaiah 55, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
And that promise propels me to my next Lutheran North Chapel talk that happens this Wednesday at 9:20 in front of, did I mention, 650 high school students? And it also compels me to say the same thing each Sunday here at Immanuel and trust that God the Holy Spirit, working through the Word, will encourage, strengthen, console, convict and remind each and every single person gathered on a Sunday morning, of God’s unconditional love for them in Jesus. And that message is ours to share in our own “chapel talks” whether they be at home, school or the office! It’s all part of the discipling process!