May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. Amen.
Good afternoon yall! Seniors, it’s coming up quick who’s ready to graduate? Parents, be honest who’s ready for them to graduate?
Now, I could stand here and talk about how college is going to be the time of your life, which don’t get me wrong it’s a blast, or about how to cherish the moments while you can, but lets be real you should be doing that always. But instead there is an important message about the “why” you’re about to embark on this journey
I have a dear friend that told me a story recently. When he was applying for schools, he did lots of research, auditioned for several music education programs, and then waited to hear back about where he would be accepted. Several schools offered him scholarships, but ultimately the choice came down to Reinhardt and Young Harris. Reinhardt offered him slightly better scholarships, but he had this feeling that he needed to be at Young Harris. After accepting his spot at YHC, he had to call Reinhardt and let them know that he would not be attending. Instead of accepting his decision, they offered him more money to where he had a full ride to Reinhardt. After lots of back and forth between Young Harris and Reinhardt, he ended up choosing Young Harris, even though logically Reinhardt was the better choice. He would have saved so much money going there, he would have been closer to home, he would have been closer to Atlanta with more opportunities. Logically Young Harris should not have been on his radar, and yet he could not shake this feeling that he was supposed to be at YHC. He prayed and begged for some kind of sign that would tell him Young Harris was not the move, but he knew in his heart that there was a purpose God needed him to fulfill in the mountains. When he was telling this story, I couldn’t let go of the message of his story: he had a purpose on my campus that needed to be fulfilled, regardless of logic. Wherever you are headed next, be it college or work or mission work or this time of figuring it out, take a moment to stop and think, Why. Why is God sending you to that place? What job does God have waiting for you to fulfill. Parents don’t get mad at me for saying this because while yes, grades or work goals are important, and your social life is important, like actually really important don’t convince yourself that it’s not, greater than any of that is your purpose, is God’s call to you. Whether you’re starting a job that you’re a little less than excited about, or going to a school that maybe wasn’t your top pick or you’re still going to be living at home and you haven’t quite figured out what the next step is, embrace the moment and dive deep to find out what your purpose is in this place you’re in. I promise you, friends, it is no accident that you are where you are; You are needed in this next place.
Friends when I got to college, I didn’t really branch out as much initially as I have led people to believe. I didn’t really know anybody. I really just hung out with my roommate, a friend from high school, and an old friend from camp. As the semester went on, those relationships started to get more distant: they all started to find their new groups, I ended up rushing a sorority even though I swore that was never going to happen. By mid-semester, I realized how alone I actually was. If one of those three people wasn’t available, I would literally skip meals because of this fear of being alone in the dining hall. I had my pledge sisters that I knew I could text, but I already spent so much time with them during pledge period doing “completely school approved things” that I didn’t want to be clingy and have us get burnt out on each other. I realized that what it came down to was I didn’t have my church group. Like I know is the case for so many of you, my entire high school career consisted of me constantly driving up to Atlanta or Toccoa to spend ALL of my time at diocesan events. Being in the youth community was where I thrived, and when I got to college I panicked because I didn’t have that. I still went to the little Episcopal church in Blairsville, I still volunteered to chaperone youth events, but being on the other side of that line was weird. I had a really hard time finding that place of still being involved and yet trying not to overstep my boundaries. My campus didn’t and still doesn’t have an Episcopal Campus Ministry, and I had this ridiculous idea that if I spent time with a campus group of another denomination then I was a fake Episcopalian. Friends that is not true. Towards the end of my first semester my school chaplain, The Reverend Blair Tolbert, tracked me down and asked why I wasn’t part of Chapel Ministry Team which is the crew that helps plan and facilitate our chapel service every Wednesday. I didn’t really have a good answer for her, especially considering I went to chapel almost every week, and she’s not one to give in, so I went to my first meeting. I’m not going to bore all of you with the details of my first meeting, and in all honesty, I don’t remember them. But what I will tell you is that joining that team was one of the most filling things I have done in my time at Young Harris. CMT is made of people from all different denominations, ages, years, beliefs, talents, everything, but we are all grounded in this unshakable desire to provide a safe haven for students to come and take a break from the business of college and worship and just rest. CMT offered me a place where I could share the love of God unconditionally and unashamedly with a group of people to back me up. CMT finally offered me a place to be poured into so that I can then pour into others. Friends that’s what I want you to understand from this story, is that you cannot do this alone. You cannot pour into others if you are empty. It is not possible for you spread the love of the gospel alone. It’s not possible and it’s not what God wants from us. We know this from 1 Corinthians when it says “Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” Friends all of us together are Christ’s body, and each of us is part of it. Whenever you get to your next step after graduation, remember that together we are Christ’s body. Without each other you will be drained, you will be empty and unable to function completely. Don’t think that you can do this on your own because friends, we need each other to be able to serve.
In our gospel reading today, we get to see this interaction between Jesus and Simon Peter. Jesus asks Simon Peter “Do you love me” Simon Peter responds with yes you know I love you. Jesus tells him to feed his lambs. Again Jesus asks Simon Peter do you love me. Confused, Simon Peter again responds with yes lord you know I love you. Jesus says tend my sheep. One last time Jesus asks Simon Peter do you love me. Frustrated Simon Peter responds saying Lord you know everything you know that I love you. Jesus just responds with feed my sheep.
Every week at chapel, we sing the first verse of the hymn They’ll Know We Are Christians as our benediction. We make a big circle around the chapel, hold hands with our neighbors, sometimes our best friends and sometimes with someone we’ve never seen, which I’ll tell ya that’s a rarity at young Harris, and we sing these words. We are one in the spirit we are one in the Lord, and we pray that all unity may one day be restored, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Now we only sing that first verse on Wednesdays, but we also remember the other verses. We will walk with eachother, we will walk hand in hand, and together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land. We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard eachother’s dignity and save each other’s pride. We are one. We will walk, hand in hand. We will work, side by side. Together. As a unified body. And in this work, they will know we are Christians. When Jesus is telling Simon Peter to feed his lambs and tend and feed his sheep it is a call to action not just for Simon Peter, not just for the disciples with them, but for all of us. It is a command from Christ himself to go and show our faith through love, through actions, through unity. Simon Peter repeatedly says Yes Lord you know I love you and Jesus’s response is always “Then show me”
In this next step, I challenge you to look beyond your comfort zone to where God needsyou to be working. Spread the good news of our risen King not just through words, but through love. And I promise you they will know we are Christians by our love.