May 4, 2003 Easter 3, Year B
Lord, Take my lips and speak through them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hands and work through them. All through your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Good Morning. I want to tell you what a privilege it is to be with you this morning. I love Youth Sunday, that time when the young people of the church take over the liturgy and put their voice to the Biblical Stories that belong to all of us.
In my time with you this morning, I want to talk specifically and directly to the youth. Grown-ups, you can listen, too, but it’s the youth to whom my story is directed.
First off, you guys, Thank you. Thank you for being a part of this parish family in whatever ways that you take an active role. Without your involvement and your purposeful inclusion by the congregation, this parish won’t have much to grow on in the coming years. So thank you for being a part of it.
So, when I was in High School and had hair, I was the co-director of a weekend retreat called Happening. Happening is a spiritual awakening weekend run by youth, for youth. The adults are there to make sure the youth eat and sleep. It is a powerful weekend and has changed the lives of many people. As part of the closing Eucharist, me and the other co-director, Laura, were the chalice bearers. The only problem is that the priest forgot to bring two chalices. He brought one chalice and one purificator (that little handkerchief that we use to wipe off the cup). So we got a small glass for the other chalice and a paper towel. Well, Laura chose to take the glass and the cloth purificator. I had the silver chalice and a paper towel. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there hadn’t been about 100 people who came through my line for the chalice. By the 50th person, the paper towel was pretty damp. By the 80th person, it was soggy. And, when the last person in line, my good friend Megan, came up to take communion, it was soaking wet. While wiping the cup after the person before Megan, I dropped the generic paper towel into the remaining wine. I was hoping Megan wouldn’t notice as I put my hand in the cup to scoop out and squeeze enough wine out of the paper towel. I was trying to be smooth about it. But, that didn’t work. First off, she saw me drop the paper towel in the chalice, then when she saw me trying to hold it back so she could take communion, we both started laughing so hard, we could hardly contain ourselves. The worst part is the Megan’s dad and my dad work together… still. Every so often, my dad will say, “Well, I ran into Sam today and we remembered that time you dropped the paper towel into the Chalice when you were giving communion to Megan.” I smile and say, “Yeah, dad, that was, uh, 1993. Thanks.”
I probably have about a zillion more stories about my life as a youth in the church back in the Diocese of East Tennessee. I won’t tell them all now. Gotta save some for another time.
I went to church almost every Sunday because in my house, there was not an option. But I got involved and I stayed involved because there were people who cared enough to let me be me. They helped provide me with the right opportunities and the places to ask some hard questions about my faith and what I believed. More importantly, they invited me to be a part of it all.
And that is what the church should be doing for each of you: Letting you be yourselves, letting you ask questions about Jesus Christ, and giving you a safe place to grow and learn, not only about your faith, but about yourself.
You see, the Church (and I spelled that with a capital C, because it goes way beyond Church of the Transfiguration and even the Episcopal Church), the Church needs you. The Church needs your leadership, your ministry to this congregation and to the world, and your wisdom to help keep it true to what Christ calls the Church to be.
And most importantly, the Church needs you to be its Witness. From the Gospel lesson this morning, we hear Jesus tell his disciples, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.”
Each of you has the opportunity everyday to be witnesses for Christ and the Church in the world. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” In how you act, in how you treat those around you, in the way other people see you, you are being a witness to the Risen Lord in our world.
I want to leave you with a challenge. I want you to really pay attention to yourself this week, and during the week, maybe on Wednesday afternoon and then again on Saturday morning, I want you to ask yourself this question: “How did I do at being a Witness for Christ this week?” Your answers may be good, they may not. You may do better on Wednesday than you did on Friday, or maybe Thursday just wasn’t a good day for you. It won’t always be easy because when it comes to being a Witness for Christ and for his Church, some days are better than others. You have to keep at it, and never forget that you might be the only bit of Christ that some people ever see.
I know that Christ is preparing this generation of young people for amazing things. So, when I get to spend time with folks like you, I don’t worry so much about the future of our country or the future of the Church.
Now, go out there and be the witnesses to Christ that the Church needs you to be.