Youth Sunday, May 21, 2017: "What I Wish I Had Heard" Fr. Carey Stone

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 Easter 6A’17 (Youth Sunday)

21 May 2017
Acts 17.22-31
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone
 
God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is. Amen. 
– Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr
 
Today is youth Sunday and our tradition at St. Luke’s is to have a graduating senior give the homily. Since we don’t have a graduating senior this year the task of preaching fell to me.  The idea that came to me was to preach the youth Sunday sermon that I wished someone would have preached when I was a teenager, and it has 5 points. So, here we go!
 
Point No.1 You Are Going to Fail (“Fr. Carey what a terrible thing to say to young people” – bear with me). 
Let’s play the guessing game. I’m going to make a statement about someone and see if you can guess who they are: This guy walked out on stage at a comedy club, and looked out at the audience, and froze and he was eventually booed off the stage; the person - Jerry Seinfeld. Another person worked at a newspaper and was fired by the editor because the editor thought that they lacked imagination and didn’t have any creative ideas, the person – Walt Disney.  One woman was fired from her job as a television reporter because the producer believed she was unfit for TV, her name – Oprah Winfrey. Another woman only had a dozen of her poems published in her lifetime but completed a total of 1,800 and today you can pay full price to purchase volumes of her poetry, her name – Emily Dickinson. One young man’s music teachers felt that he was hopeless at composing and that he would never succeed with the violin, his name – Ludwig von Beethoven. 
 
There are many other examples of people who had many failures in life but they were never failures. The difference between them and a failure is that they didn’t give up. I found a cool acronym for the word “fail” the other day and here it is “F.A.I.L.: First Attempt At Learning.” Failure is only final when you fail to get back up and try again. Now I should add that you, like everybody else are not good at everything. In high school I played the trumpet and I remember trying out for the all region high school band and after my less than stellar performance the judges literally laughed out loud at me. Trumpet was not my deal. Later on I walked across the hall from the band room to the choir room and had a much different experience! After my first audition the choir director asked, “Man, have you been taking lessons?” he immediately signed me up for the choir. We have all been blessed with gifts and talents – sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what they are but I can assure you that you’ve got them. People will try to dim your sparkle like those band judges that laughed at me, but just get back up and try again!
 
Point No.2 God thinks you're cool!
That’s right, not only does God love you like crazy but God also thinks you’re cool! And why would God think you are cool? Because God is the one who thought you up! As a poster I saw once read, “God doesn’t make any junk!” God created you as one of a kind; God’s own unique design is who we are! We are each made in the image of God but we each have built in design flaws, imperfections that cause us not to be good at everything and can make us wish we were somebody else. 
 
That’s exactly what happens in the movie “Bedazzled” starring Brendan Fraser who plays the part of an office geek who is not content with his life the way it is and Elizabeth Hurley who plays the devil. The devil allows the geek to become other people who he thinks their lives are much better. Some were rich, some were famous, some were better looking, but each time things don’t work out for some reason like his fantasy promised. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that his life is the best life after all and the movie concludes with a song called “Change Your Mind” the chorus says, “If you want to be somebody else change your mind.” The fictitious movie does a good job of telling the truth by showing us all of the many false selves we could chose to become in life but the only one that will really satisfy us is our true self – be yourself everyone else is already taken! You are good enough just the way you are! 
 
Point No.3 Listen to the People Who Believe In You
Thank God that there are people in the world that believe in us. They know something that not everyone else does – they see the magic that is inside you, they see your potential – they believe in you, pay very close attention to what they say to you and about you. 
 
A special person comes to mind when I think about my own life. I give thanks for my high school choir director, Gary Morris who has just retired after 40 years as a high school and college choir director. My senior year he offered me the lead role of Captain Von Trapp in the musical, The Sound of Music. I remember feeling rather unsure of myself; I looked him in the eye and asked him, “Do you believe I can do it?” He looked me in the eye and told me, “Yes Carey, I believe you can do it, you’ll do a fine job.” His faith boosted my faith and I was able to do it and do it well! Who are the people that believe in you? Pay attention to them they know something - that you are worthy of being believed in!
 
Point No.4 God Has Something Special For You To Do
God takes all of your gifts, talents and flaws into consideration and wants to use them all in a way that will meet the needs of the world and bring gladness to your heart. As author Frederick Buechner puts it, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”  You might not be the best in the world at what God calls you to do but you will be good enough and it will help others and make you glad to do it! 
 
This special calling that we each have is something that we discover. That’s why it is very important to try many different things to see what gladdens your heart. In this process you will discover a part of yourself where you will find yourself saying, “yes!” When you find your special calling you will be able to say something similar to Olympic runner, Eric Liddell when he said, “God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.”   What have you already discovered that when you participate in or perform you feel God's pleasure? Those are clues to your true self. 
 
Point No. 5 Jesus in the Way, the Truth, and the Life
The philosopher Blaise Pascal talked about a God shaped hole, that we each have a hole in our soul that no amount of silver and gold can fill, beautiful people, or college degrees won't fill, There are many counterfeits, false selves that offer to satisfy us and bring us peace but none of them can. Only Jesus can fill our empty space that’s inside us, point us in the right pathway for us, speak the truth that clears up our confusion and leads us into an abundant life that brings us joy! The God whose Name is Love will be at the heart of all of this and it will enable you to love God back, and to love yourself, and to love the neighbors all around you. 
 
Well, I’ve tried to share what I wished I had heard in a sermon when I was a youth and I hope it has encouraged you. As I close there is one more thing I want you to remember and it was said by the actress Viola Davis who played Aibileen Clark in the movie “The Help”: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Amen.
 
–“You are enough!” Brene’ Brown