WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — In 1998, the last time the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell took to the Triennium stage at the Elliott Hall of Music at Purdue University, he was wearing a homemade porcupine mask.
“I had just graduated from seminary and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I decided to join the circus,” said Thursday’s Presbyterian Youth Triennium preacher. He joined a group of former missionaries talking about their experiences as Young Adult Volunteers; the group performed a scene from their traveling show during Triennium. Gambrell was feeling like Thursday’s Triennium theme, prone to wander.
“The thing I cannot forget about that day,” said Gambrell, associate for worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Office of Theology and Worship, “is that feeling of being lost, not knowing who I was or whose I was or what I was called to be.”
What makes us prone to wander, Gambrell asked, to turn our back on those we love and to hide from God, the maker of heaven and Earth? “There’s a word for it — sin,” he said. “It’s not a popular word, but it’s a word we Presbyterians take very seriously. We are conflicted and confounded by sin, and yet we are captivated by it.”
Technology, he said, makes it faster and more convenient to wander from God’s way. Then Gambrell identified an app for every sin: Instagram for pride, LinkedIn for greed, Facebook for envy, Tinder for lust, Yelp for gluttony, Twitter for wrath and Netflix for sloth — “my favorite,” he said with a smile.
The terrible thing about sin is that it affects our relationships with God, others — even ourselves, Gambrell said.
“God hates sin. It devours and consumes. It marginalizes and oppresses,” he said. “It hurts God’s beloved children, and this hurts God’s heart.”
“God knows we are prone to wander,” he said, “but the good news of the gospel is that as serious as God is about sin, God is all the more serious about salvation. God searches us out.”
“God searches us out and gathers us in, cuddly sheep or prickly porcupine, precious coin or forgotten penny in a fountain,” he said, recalling the day’s Scripture found in Luke 15. “I don’t have that porcupine mask anymore. I guess I lost it.”
“Somewhere I came to trust and believe that God found me, called me and claimed me for a particular mission in this world,” he said. “I still feel lost sometimes, but prayer helps me remember who I am, whose I am and who I am called to be.”
By cutting away to short videos, Triennium’s drama team helped worshipers dive deeper into Luke 15’s three parables — The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Child. Mock TV reporters interviewed some of the participants, including the Lost Coin, who told a reporter while lying down, “Some kid tried to throw me in the fountain and missed.”
One reporter summarized the three stories this way: “People are getting lost and losing things. It’s crazy. It’s almost like God is trying to tell us something.”
by Mike Ferguson, Presbyterian News Service