Youth Sunday 2018
Speaker: Henry Large and Kathleen Sandoval
I’d like to start with an apology. Some of you might remember, two years ago, my older brother, Jamie, preached at this same service, and he whipped out a ukulele and sang for part of his sermon. Unfortunately, the family pipes went to him, and I’ll be speaking, not singing, this sermon. I hope you can bear with me and enjoy my reflections.
On the Rite 13 Beach Weekend trip, the Appalachian Service Project, and the J2A Pilgrimage to Ireland, three unforgettable trips I’ve made with this church, Reverend Matthew Hanisian would ask us the same questions every night, after a relaxing Compline service. “Where did you see God today? And where do you hope to see God tomorrow?” he would ask.
Well, where have I seen God in my life? I’ve seen Him throughout this community, as I’ve grown from a toddler into the Christian man I am today.
When I was just 11 months old, I was baptized right over there in this very Church. Frank Wade was very nice because helet my grandfather baptize me, and he is---forgive me for saying this---a METHODIST . Since I was born into the Episcopal church, I’ve been a committed Christian and member of this community.
As I grew older, I spent time in all sorts of Sunday school groups. I remember three or four years with Eve Zartman and Bill Ball...I hope they’ve forgiven me for my rowdiness by this time. Two years in Rite 13 and two years in J2A followed. The choice to attend church and youth group was no longer our parents’; it was ours. I’ve grown close to the great friends I’ve made over the years in Rite 13 and J2A. Whether it was choosing hymns for this service 5 years ago or scrambling around the kitchen to make Superbowl Chili for you all, or traveling all the way to Ireland, we grew close to each other while growing closer to God.
At this time, I also began serving the church by acolyting every few services. It took me a while to learn the ropes. In fact, on my very first “day on the job,” some of you might remember this service, I forgot to blow out my candle (pretty basic acolyting 101 right?), and soon enough, the fire alarm was blaring. Within two minutes, everyone in here was outside by the playground, and I did everything I could to look innocent.
I couldn’t talk about my time here without talking about the fantastic J2A Pilgrimage you all generously funded. After months and months of planning and fundraising, we left this church for two weeks of spiritual growth in Ireland. Every day, we woke up with no idea of what lay ahead of us that day. It could be visiting a museum in a nearby town or walking for hours in the country. Although we didn’t know the days’ plan, we kept an ubpeat attitude for whatever the adults threw our way. Over the trip, we got to spend hours and hours in beautiful churches and places, contemplating our faith and growing closer to God.
The trip was also an opportunity for us to get to know each other so well. I, for one, got to know our adult leader Douglas Dykstra so much better--or as we like to call him, “Doug the Thug.” I remember he would open up his voice and screech the soprano part of the song “Take Me to Church,” whether or not we’d ask him to. I once “manhandled” Doug because he didn’t believe I could pick him up on my back. Spoiler alert, I did carry him on my back, and I felt strong and he felt weak.
When we flew back to D.C., we were so much closer to each other and closer to God. None of this trip would have been possible without your generous donations, so I thank you.
After my time in J2A, it was time for Senior Youth, which meant we could decide whether we wanted to be confirmed.
Some in our class were not ready at the time, and that was ok. But those who were ready to confirm their faith in God and the church began an important part in the life of a Christian. We had many deep talks with Emily and Jim, topics ranging from what it truly means to “believe” to Jim’s two week battle to construct a complicated metal fence in Kentucky.
One class, we were discussing repentance, and Jim asked if we knew the Greek word for repent. We had no idea, so I decided to give it a shot. “It’s just Greek, it can’t be too hard.” I thought. So I piped up and guessed, “Repentos!”
Jim laughed like he had never laughed before. Turns out I was wrong. The Greek word for repentance is… well. do any of you know? Can you tell me? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Repentos...
Turns out the Greek word for repent is “metanoia.” But when the big day for confirmation arrived, Jim handed out these pins that say, “Repentos! St. Albans Senior Youth Confirmation 2016.” And then we walked over to the Cathedral for a moving service that celebrated our confirmation in Christ and this church.
This where I have seen God. I have seen God in these memories, I saw God in the baptism, confirmation, and pilgrimage I’ve had. But more importantly, I’ve seen God in Matthew, in the Zartman-Balls, in Doug, in Emily, in Jim, and in all of you who have made my time in this church so special.
So - that is where I’ve seen God in the past. Where do I see God today?
I see God in three instances. This answer actually comes mostly from a great sermon Bishop Mariann gave at my very own Confirmation service. However, where I see God today is really a culmination of my spiritual learning from my time at this place.
I see God in people. I see His goodness in the people I meet and see every day. I see him in my loving family, and in this loving community. I believe there is some deeper meaning in human existence. I believe that life is more than lightning striking water billions of years ago followed by countless chemical reactions. I believe there was a reason I was made the way I am, and that applies to all other humans. If I couldn’t see God in humans, I would struggle to know why any of us were created.
The second place I see God is in inexplicable emotional moments. When at random times—walking home, petting my dog, or anything—I feel an unexpected, unprovoked feeling of warmth, happiness, and comfort, I feel God’s presence. This warmth, I believe, is God.
The third place I see God is beautiful things, often nature. When I see jaw-dropping outdoor views -- the Bishop’s Garden comes to mind -- I think that there has to be a reason these places were made so wonderful. There has to be a reason those flowers in the Bishop Garden grew from the soil and sprouted such colorful, sweet-smelling petals. This reason, I believe, is God.
Finally - where do I hope to see God tomorrow?
Well, today’s Gospel reading is Jesus' Farewell Address to his disciples, and whaddya know? Today is my farewell address to you. So yes. You are all my disciples, and I am Christ. Worship and follow me, and I hope none of you are Judas and would get me crucified.
A lot is changing in my life right now. In a week, my baseball career will end; I’ve been playing for 14 years. In a month, I’ll leave St. Albans School, where I’ve gone for 9 years. In just 3 months, I’m packing my bags and going to Yale University, which means I’ll have to leave this great church and community, where I’ve gone for my whole life. Luckily though, unlike baseball and high school, I know that St. Albans Parish will still be there for me when I come home, and will still love and support me as it has done my whole life.
I hope to see God in loving Christian communities like this one, both in college and for the rest of my life. I hope to keep seeing God in people, emotional moments, and nature.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus prays to his father, saying “protect my disciples in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” I’d like to thank the St. Albans community, all of you here, for helping “protect” me, and making me know that “we are one” here, so that I have been able to see God yesterday, today, and for the rest of my life.
Yesterday myself and the other kids got confirmed, it was a way of us saying goodbye to being a child in the church, and starting a new chapter as a young adult. This week we see that John has explained when Jesus was crucified, he was left alone and didn't have any one with him at the time. I can relate to him at this point because when I was a little girl I was in foster care with my sisters, I believed I was left alone and no one wanted me. I prayed to God everyday asking him why I was in this situation. “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” During our lives we find ourselves going through hard times and not really being able to understand what’s going on.
Jesus was a teacher who showed people how to love and how to live together, he showed people that faith isn't just something you believe in, it's something that you have to follow. Faith works in mysterious ways, even when you don't think God is listening he is, even when you pray and things don't work out the way they should. I used to think that my prayers were never answered and felt as if he didn't care about me, because I felt as if he never wanted to answer me. But last summer, I realized that praying does help, it allows you to get things off your chest and talk about things you may not feel comfortable talking about with friends. Being in the church is a way to get in touch with yourself in ways you thought you never could. When going to communion you’re coming together as one. My grandmother Carol taught me that it's ok to be brave and to be a strong leader, her partner Cathie taught me to be strong and to have a voice, she has also taught me that showing emotion is normal, and that I shouldn't be afraid too. My sister taught me that letting go is never easy, but it happens in life and that when we move forward we’re never really alone.
We impact others with our words and actions, just the way Jesus did when he taught people and showed them another way of life. We love people bravely, by opening our hearts and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, which we’re afraid of because we don't want to get hurt. “The father loved me, so I love you.” We love each other because it's what we were taught to do, we fight for what we believe in because we feel as though we have to. My family has impacted me so much, from taking me and my sisters in 12 years ago, to helping me support myself even when I think I can handle things all on my own.
Life has beautiful moments, which are some of the best times. But during our time of growing up and having changes we have to say goodbye. The hardest goodbye for some of us is saying goodbye to loved ones, I had to say one of my hardest goodbyes during this past August. My older sister was going to college, and we’ve never spent more than a week apart from each other. She’s always been independent and loves to read, even when we were younger she didn't always want to be with me or play with me. Jesus taught people to take advantage of the life we’re living, because we never know what can happen. We should leave a mark when we die, have someone who remembers us for the good, and who will never forget us. We don't always remember that we’re lucky to have a family, some kids don't, but that’s why it's so important for us to love each other and not to judge people. We should love people equally, no matter their skin color, race, body features, even if they they look different.
Being different is ok, it's what makes us human and unique. Jesus wasn't like the rest of us, he could understand things not many people could, he taught us what he knew and showed us how to believe in faith. As we have this moment of silence take the time to reflect on how you can impact people in a good way, and why our actions are so important.