Good morning. For those of you who don”t know me, I”m Mike Wagner and I’ve got to say, I love this church. I want to thank you for putting up with me for these 17 years. At Trinity, I feel that even though I am a youth, you make sure I know that I am a full member of the church. People here ask me questions and listen to my answers. They care about what I have to say. This church empowers youth to do some amazing things. Matt Murry and I were part of the Trinity Delegation to Diocesan Convention last year. We, along with Sean Dempsey went to General Convention in Indiana and saw first hand how the church is run. Our J2A class traveled to New York and experienced other religions like Judaism and Islam. And several of the youth including myself go to Diocesan youth events like Happening and New Beginnings. As I begin my senior year, I want to encourage you to continue this practice of helping youth to be agents for change in the world. Youth are important. Youth are powerful. (And yes, sometimes loud, and energetic) At Trinity we have 108 people in church who are under the age of 18. That is one third of the average Sunday attendance.
A lot of people wonder how it is that the young people in this church are such good friends. Well, when you spend weekends sleeping on a church floor together you kind of have to be. But it”s also because we work together to serve others, and that brings us closer to each other and builds our faith. With youth from this Diocese at EYE we helped build a house for a family of three in a week. We packaged food for over a thousand people. On our pilgrimage we served close to a hundred homeless people lunch. If you ever feel like the Episcopal Church doesn”t have a bright future, come to a closing service of Happening or New Beginnings. When the service is over, no one wants to leave and we all keep hugging each other. Over the short span of one weekend, we all become a close-knit family. A church.
Last week, bishop Gene Robinson came to Trinity. He said something that really has stuck with me. He said as Episcopalians we can have a multitude of different opinions and ideas but we all come together as one at the Table. I saw this first hand at General Convention last summer and I see it here all the time. The House of Deputies was packed with people who came from different walks of life who had vastly different ideas on a huge number of topics. And yet somehow, despite all the arguing and debating, there was peace and joy at the worship services. Here at Trinity we have people from all walks of life and all ages who come together in communion.
Over and over I have learned from this church the value best online casino of unity over uniformity and I have really taken that to heart. It is at the heart of what Jesus is praying about in the
his disciples. His last prayer before he is betrayed is for all of us to be one. He knew we wouldn”t always agree or want to do things the same way or think the same about what needs to be done. But, he knew that the sign for the rest of the world to believe would be that in spite of our differences, we are one in God”s love. Jesus is praying for God to unify us, and each week that we come and break bread together it is God”s grace that does just that.
That kind of radical unity can definitely challenge the status quo. There is a quote that I really like (even though I couldn”t tell you who said it). Stand up tall, even if you”re standing alone. At the Episcopal Church, I never feel like I”m standing alone. God’s love can”t be contained. It is the nature of God’s love to reach outward, to accept new things and to adapt.
Take the jailer in the reading from Acts. He held Paul and Silas for simply helping out a girl who was in pain and being exploited. And when he saw how the Lord loved them and gave them the chance for freedom, he converted and was excepted by those who he had hurt. Through God”s grace we are able to mend broken relationships and come together. That is the Episcopal Church. One that is accepting of anyone no matter where they come from. We have the same idea at youth events. No matter who you are or where you come from, you are a child of God and I will treat you that way.
This church has taught me that God wants everyone at the table, young and old. That wherever we come from, no matter what ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, God loves us for who we are. You have taught me that nothing we can ever do will be able to separate us from Him. That there”s nothing I can ever do that will make him love me less. Nothing in this world. Ever.