I’ve had a more positive reaction to last week’s sermon than any other I’ve preached. And it’s come mainly from people identified as Gen X, folks I talked about in the sermon.
I think that might be because Gen Xers FEEL like middle children (as the article I cited identified, and much as there is a universal middle child experience). We’ve seen the baby boomers stay too long in important positions, and we’ve seen the younger generations hungry for everything their parents have, without having to work for it.
And we feel cheated. We’re frustrated that many of us had to begin our careers flipping burgers or working at the mall because the recession of the early 90’s lopped off job opportunities.
Many are angry that they didn’t start making a decent salary, or start to achieve their vocational goals until well into their thirties.
Many have noticed that their standard of living is much lower than their parents were at this stage in their lives; that wages didn’t keep up with buying power.
It’s like we’ve had to work longer and harder for less. And we’ve been dumped on for not achieving like our parents did. Or for not being as hungry as our younger sisters and brothers.
However, one thing our generation does really well is community. That’s another reason I think people responded to the sermon. We don’t often see community as a gift. Or a talent. And people were glad to see it affirmed.
If this generation has a legacy it will be to make choices for community rather than self-interest. And if there is any gospel here, it is that community is the gift that God has given this generation, and the gift we are then called to share with the world.
Personally, I don’t think God cares about job satisfaction or career success, or even about personal happiness.
I do think God cares about how we relate, how we love. I think God cares about how we contribute to the life of our communities and the world, not just in its economic growth. I think God is more interested in what we give up for the sake of others, than what we gain for ourselves.
And these are ideals that many Gen Xers identify as core values. So, maybe it’s our job to gather people together instead of creating vast sums of wealth. Maybe it’s our job to build people rather than empires. Maybe it’s our job to be the community that God wants for the world.
Maybe that’s the unique gift and talent that God wants us to share with the other generations.