Awaken Orlando – Gravity Youth Sunday

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 11:38-44.

This Sunday Tuskawilla UMC’s Gravity Youth Group will lead our worship experience. They will share about their summer mission trip – Awaken Orlando – through music, personal testimonies, and a picture slideshow. Shrell Chamberlain, TUMC’s Youth Director, will offer the sermon. Our youth are looking forward to this time in worship with our church family.

John 11 tells the story of Jesus’ dear friend, Lazarus. Lazarus became ill and later died. Jesus wept for love of Lazarus and rather than letting death have the final word, Jesus went to Lazarus to awaken him. Jesus went to Lazarus to call him back to life.

When I think about how our youth served on the mission trip, I know they joined Jesus in the work of awakening. They saw need and they answered with service. They saw want for relationship and made and strengthened friendships. They saw places and people crying for hope and became living hope. With fearlessness they stepped into new and different circumstances with new and different people and they served beautifully. I am so so proud of them.

When Lazarus emerged from the tomb, having been awakened by Jesus, Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go” (Jn 11:44). When Jesus wakes us up – when we become aware of our sin, of our separation from God and intentionally return to God – Jesus says to us, “Unbind him. Unbind her. Let them go.” Unhindered by what was and looking with great anticipation towards what is, the world is ours for the taking. What will we do? What decisions will we make? Will we return to sin, which leads to darkness and death, or will we walk with God on the path that leads to life?

As our youth reminisce about their mission trip I have heard their reminiscing lead to requesting. “When will we return to the Memory Care Center? When will we return to Community Food and Outreach? When will we return to Matthew’s Hope? When and where can we serve more?” These requests are evidence of the rooting of our youth’s awakening. They do not want to go back to sleep. They do not want to go into darkness. They have seen, been a part of, and contributed to the goodness of light and life with God, and they want to continue walking down that path. This mission trip released them to serve and they are ready to continue their response.

Thank you, Gravity Youth, for your service on your mission trip. Thank you for the many ways you represented Jesus, your families, and Tuskawilla UMC during your mission trip. And thank you for the learnings you will share with us this Sunday. I cannot wait to reminisce with you and respond to your requests for future opportunities to serve!

Prayer: Lord, “I could just sit; I could just sit and wait for all your goodness hope to feel your presence. And I could just stay; I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel you, hope to feel something again. And I could hold on; I could hold on to who I am and never let you change me from the inside. And I could be safe; I could be safe here in your arms and never leave home, never let these walls down. But you have called me higher. You have called me deeper and I’ll go where you will lead me, Lord. You have called me higher. You have called me deeper and I’ll go where you lead me, Lord, where you lead me, Lord.”* Amen.

*”Called Me Higher” Lyrics by All Sons & Daughters.

Status Report: Mission Trip Summer 2012

Read Ephesians 5:8-14.

This Sunday the mission team from Reeves will share their experiences with the congregation during worship.  I am so pleased these individuals offered a week in service to the community near the Hinton Rural Life Center – a United Methodist related agency – in Hinton, North Carolina.  I was unable to join the mission team on their endeavors in North Carolina as I was on my own mission trip that week.

I served as the worship leader for the Elementary Campers at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Youth Camp in Leesburg, FL!

(Well…it’s really in Fruitland Park…but are we going to split hairs over that?  Nah!)

I spent the week with an incredible group of rising 4th and 5th graders and the adult volunteers and camp counselors that were with them.  They were so full of life and energy and eagerness and energy and spirit and energy…

Did I mention they had energy?  Oh yes!

Our theme for the week was AWAKENING and each night in worship we learned what it means for us to be AWAKE: for God, for God’s purpose for our lives, for God’s purpose for creation.

To be AWAKE we have to (be):

A – Aware / W – Wonder / A – Act / K – Know / E – Engage

We have to be aware of who we are and whose we are.  In that awareness, God gives us space to wonder about things we do not have answers for or understand…like why there is evil and why bad things happen.  Once we are aware and have had the opportunity to wonder with God, we arrive at the critical point to act – that point of making a move towards God and saying “Yes! I want to be part of what you are doing!!”  As we act we continue to learn and we come to know that following God isn’t always easy, but it is so worth it.  This knowing leads us to engage – engage our journeys with God, engage with our churches at home, engage with our friends at camp outside of camp, engage what we have experienced so we won’t forget it.

Aware – Wonder – Act – Know – Engage

When these combine, we are AWAKE!

I learned so much from the campers during my time at camp.  They reminded me of what it means to have faith like a child – to have a simple faith.  That doesn’t mean it is an ignorant or uninformed faith.  It is just simple, uncomplicated, beautiful relationship.  Yes, I can ask questions.  Yes, I can doubt.  Yes, I can yell and scream if needed.  God has created space for all of that.  God creates space for me to be me in my faith.

That’s what I learned on my mission week in Summer 2012.  God’s message prepared especially for me in those 63 rising 4th and 5th graders was a much needed awakening.

Reflection: Did you have an opportunity to serve God’s people in some way this summer?  How did that time of service make you feel?  How were you changed? How did you grow?  How did God use you?  Share your story with someone this week.

And if you’re struggling to come up with an answer because you didn’t have the opportunity to “go” on a mission trip, I encourage you to spend some time in quiet reflection asking God to reveal to you how in fact God did use you to serve this summer.  You might be surprised by what God lifts up.