Rites of Passage in Youth Work

Disclaimer: These are just the start of some ramblings so please don’t judge me too harshly yet.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus time in the wilderness.

Matthew 4

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

   “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
   and they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Mark 1

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[g] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Luke 4

 1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a]by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]

 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]

 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

   “‘He will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]

 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]

 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

The three accounts of Jesus’ time in the wilderness in the synoptic gospels all start after Jesus has been baptised. He has spent the first 30 years of his life learning the Jewish ways, being instructed and then he gets baptised and is sent out to begin his work.

But inbetween his learning and his doing is 40 days in the wilderness.

Jesus goes through a rite of passage. A rite of passage is understood as a “ritual event that marks a person’s progress from one status to another”. I’ve never thought of it like this before. The time in the wilderness was there to make sure he was ready to undertake the work. To go from a place of learning, to a place of doing. To make sure he was up for the task.

Rite of passage is incredbly important. They happen all over the world in every culture.

In Britain, culturally rite of passages are age bound: 16, 18 and 21.

When you are 16 you can legally have “heterosexual” sex and smoke.

When you are 18 you can vote, drink and have “homosexual” sex.

When you are 21…well I’m not sure about that.

But I wonder in christian youth work, whether we focus enough on the rite of passage of the young people we work with?

yes we have communion. yes we have baptism. But is that enough?

Do we teach the importance of a rite of passage? Should we teach it all?

For me, when I think back, although not necessarily defined as a rite of passage, the first time I went on a mission trip to London was a turning point in my life.

Do you put enough emphasis on rite of passage with your young people?

What rites of passage do you have?

Do you think we even need them or are theologically sound?

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2 responses

  1. Nice to be reminded of this, and really like that way you’ve looked at Christ’s ‘proving ground’. I for one would agree entirely that the man Jesus yet again met us on our own level. When I was 18 I went on a mission to Poland and it turned my life upside down, back to front, and inside out. There was something about being taken away from all that was familiar and throwing myself on what I knew of God (which was precious little) to pull me through.

  2. […] Who Said Life Wasn't Complicated? Faith. Youth Work. Film. Conversation. HomeAbout meAudio Twitter Facebook RSS Feed ← Rites of Passage in Youth Work […]

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