May 20, 2012
Youth Sunday Sermon
by Brodie Chittum
This sermon is based on John 17:6-19
And thanks to everyone for this opportunity to speak to you.
As I read through today’s lessons when planning this sermon, the Gospel spoke to me in a clear way. In it, Jesus says to his Father:
“...for the words that you gave to me I have given to them,
and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you;
and they have believed that you sent me.”
In this reading, Jesus speaks to God about why his disciples deserve eternal life. The disciples, who lived in a society with much pressure to conform to social norms, decided to follow a man who proposed new ideas. By opening their minds to a new belief, they simultaneously opened themselves to God.
In my opinion, people spend too much time in their comfort zone. We all need to learn to embrace every unique experience, even if at first it might appear to be worthless, or even negative. I have been in plenty of situations where I benefited without ever expecting that I would.
One example that seems appropriate is a humbling experience that I had in Honduras when I was on the youth mission trip last summer.
I stood inside a cramped room as my friend Henry withdrew money from an ATM. The machine handed him 400 lempiras (approximately 20 US dollars) and as he placed the colorful Honduran money in his pocket, he motioned with his hand that he was ready to go.
It was just past five o’clock, and, as if on cue, rain came pouring out of the sky, as it did every day at this time. I nodded to the police officer who stood guard outside the ATM, and as always I felt a degree of discomfort when I noticed the loaded shotgun which he held in his hand.
We set off down the raised sidewalk, failing to remain dry as some of the roofs, which lacked gutters, stopped halfway across, forcing us to dash through miniature waterfalls of rain. Our main objective was to meet up with some other members of our mission trip group for dinner, but in the meantime, I insisted that we shop for a souvenir for my girlfriend. Fortunately, we were staying in a tourist town (at least in terms of Honduras), so were able to eat, sleep, and shop in relative comfort.
Henry and I reached the end of the block and spotted the shop that we intended to reach across the street and a few hundred feet to the left. We took a running start and began moving across the empty cobblestone street, hopping from stone to stone in a desperate attempt to keep our feet dry. We stumbled into the store out of breath and soaking wet, cursing our bad luck of arriving on the first day of the rainy season. Needless to say we made quite a ruckus, and several of the locals shot us judgmental stares.
The woman at the counter started speaking to us in Spanish, but she was talking at an incomprehensibly fast pace, so we stood motionless, trying to dissect the meaning of what she was saying.
By the time we figured out that she was simply asking if she could help us find anything, several people in the store were laughing at us. Already unhappy about being soaked, the final blow to my self esteem came when a man patted me on the back and called me a gringo, which translates approximately as “white person who doesn’t know what he is doing”.
Although at the time I thought no more of this experience than the fact that I was wet and surrounded by laughing Hondurans, I realized later that this, like every other story I have from the trip, was a memory to understand and to cherish. It was a special experience, and one that I will never forget.
After all, we were in Honduras to serve God - and if at times we were made to feel ridiculous, then that in itself was a worthwhile lesson. We were in a strange land among strangers, but I came to believe strongly that, like our mission volunteers, everyone should attempt to explore the unknown - because that is just where you might find God’s word.
Jesus was on the very first mission trip to spread the word of God – a soaking rain would not have deterred him.
Many of my greatest friends now are people who, until this past fall, I hardly even knew. Last year as a junior in a new high school, most of my acquaintances were very familiar people in the grade above me, and, needless to say, this year they were all gone to college.
At the beginning of this school year it seemed that I would be facing a long, socially boring term - but it turned out instead to be a great opportunity.
I got to know many classmates that I never expected to spend time with outside the classroom - and in this way I made friends with some wonderful individuals. They are different than last year’s friends, but gifted and interesting in many other ways.
I knew that I would meet new people when I went to college, but it somehow seemed less obvious to me that great potential friends had been sitting next to me in class for over a year. I took a chance with a new situation, and it proved to be very rewarding.
I encourage everyone here today – especially the youth, to try to be as outgoing and adventurous as possible - seek out new experiences – otherwise you will never know what person or thing you might have missed.
In today’s Gospel from John, Jesus prays and describes his time on earth:
“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
Jesus was the great risk-taker. We need to follow his example. Amen.