Make A Joyful Noise – Youth Sunday Senior Sermons

 

MACAULAY ETHERIDGE

It’s incredible to me that this moment in my life has finally come. I remember watching all of homilies given throughout my years of being a youth and their impacts on my life, and I take this opportunity to join that special group of inspiring people as an honor and a privilege. Yet, it is also a tremendous challenge to portray and explain everything that this church means to me, I use that it the present tense because in my years growing up in the church, everything that I’ve learned and experienced in this place of worship has culminated in the way it inspires me everyday. My goal during this time that I have your attention is to preach why this church, this place of praise, is so special to me, and really all of us. But in the process of deciding what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, and all who I wanted to thank, I tried to specify most all of what I had learned throughout my time in the church in three core lessons:

Give it Away To Get it Back

Never Waiver in Faith

Everybody’s Somebody’s Everything.

And I think these three lessons exemplify what I’ve taken away from my 15 years here.

The first lesson: Give It Away To Get It Back, was taught to me by the amazing group of youth advisors that we have at our church. In my maturation through my years of youth, there was the amazing team of Katherine Lambert, the ultimate leader and one who taught me to never shy away from commanding the situation, Brent and Sarah Mullis, both of whom taught me to always look at the positive side of things and make the most out of every opportunity, and Amy Shook, who taught me to always be prepared for the moment. These youth leaders not only gave me support to become the person I am, but led the entire youth group through the extraordinary example they set through their actions, and by just simply being incredible people. John Wooden once wrote, “My goodness, how fortunate I was as a youngster to have been positively influenced by these adults [in my life]”. I relate to Mr. Wooden’s sentiments, because I’m so happy I have gotten to know and learn from these amazing people and leaders. But I learned the lesson of Giving to Get Back specifically on Mission Trips. From all the organizations we helped to the amazing people we talked to, I was taught that when you treat people like who they truly are, children of God, by simply give them your time and effort you are given true love and relationships back. That idea is so prevalent in this church, and it is incredible to see the love we give and receive from all of each other.

The second lesson: Never Waiver in Faith, was taught by the incredible teachers and staff here at the church. The Sunday School teachers, Mr. Tappy, Mrs. Smolen, Mrs. Rowe, to name a few, and all of the other teachers who have fortified my faith in my early years in the church, have truly meant so much in teaching me that, even through the toughest of times or experiences in my life, the church family and my faith are one of the best things to find solace in. Also, both Mr. Hutchins and Mr. Brandt, some of the most organized leaders and amazing members of the church, have taught me to appreciate services on a whole new level in guiding me through being an acolyte and crucifer. That appreciation has given me another avenue to learn more about myself and grow as a person. I think my appreciation for my faith would not be as strong as it is today without all of these influential teachers I’ve been lucky enough to have.

The final lesson: Everybody’s Somebody’s Everything, was taught by all of you. Every day that I was here, whether it be for a service, youth group, or something else, you all made me feel like I was your everything, and that is fleeting principal and action in today’s society. If you look to your left, right, in front and behind you, you will see someone who is somebody’s everything, someone who is your everything. THAT is what makes this such a special place, we are all part of each other’s everything, we all leave preconceived notions at the door and love one another for who we all are. From the youth leaders, sunday school teachers, service organizers, maintenance staff, all members, and especially our great preachers. And to all of you, I want to thank you for making me part of your everything in my years here at Charlotte Presbyterian Church, and I hope you have felt like you are as big a part of my everything as you are. And for all you have given me, I thank you, because it was everything I could have asked for.

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ELLIE HAIR

Good morning; as most of you know, my name is Ellie Hair, and yes, I am the last of the Hair children, and I will be attending North Carolina State University in the coming fall. I kept putting off writing my homily because I wanted so much for it to be perfect. I was hoping it would accurately reflect my feelings toward this congregation, which to me seemed to be a daunting task. I was baptized here, I was raised here, and I wanted this milestone to be just as beautiful as the time I’ve spent here. And as it turns out, preparing this sermon was as easy as anything, because I’ve always known what it is I need to say in this brief time I get in front of you. I did not want to present to you a goodbye, or a see you later, but I needed to spend what little time I have up here to say thank you. This church has been the foundation of my childhood, and young adulthood, and when I look out into the congregation today, I do not feel nostalgia or sadness. What I feel the most is gratitude.

First and foremost, I must take time to express my appreciation to Catherine, Brent, and Sarah, three of our youth leaders who take the youth on our yearly mission trips in the summer. You three have been the greatest teachers I could have had during a time in life as confusing and annoying as middle and high school, but you find a lesson in everything and I think that’s really special. All of youth leaders really do deserve an absurd amount of credit because they give an absurd amount of time and effort into the youth program.

I’m also grateful for Barbara Caine, my godmother, my piano teacher, and the strongest person I know. She and her husband Tom were the reason my family came to Trinity eighteen years ago, and for that I am beyond thankful, because if they had not brought us here, my life would be completely different.

I was baptized on those stairs, I went to preschool in the building next door; I have so many stories that I would love to share with you all, but there’s not enough time in the world for me to even go through my most favorite memories—memories that I love and adore. I loved throwing pennies that “Pops” gave us every Sunday into the fountain outside. I thought that if I threw in two and saved one each week then by the time I turned sixteen I’d have enough money to buy my own car. I loved playing in the big bush out in the field that they cut down a few years back, looking for leprechauns with my preschool class on Saint Patrick’s Day. I loved exploring the basement with Mr. Tappy’s Sunday school class drinking camel spit, as well as preparing Bible Sunday School in the summer with Mr. Tappy. The Tappy’s have that magical touch that can turn something ordinary into extraordinary. I loved preparing for the Christmas pageant in choir and being a part of Christmas Eve service as a youth, even though I managed to have a horrible cough nearly every Christmas. I loved getting closer to some Trinity members a server at Southminster, where I worked throughout the majority of my high school career. And I’ve loved participating in services through acolyting, and getting to sit up here with Grace and Steve, who we are so lucky to have as our ministers because they are truly awesome.

I love this church. And I wish I could say my journey thus far is not over, but it is. I’ll be back, a certified chreaster, making a few appearances here and there, but it won’t be the same. I won’t be in youth anymore and I won’t be able to participate in weddings as much or do room in the inn as often; there won’t be any more mission trips or Montreat youth conferences, but I am so appreciative for the ones that I have had.

You did all these things. You are all these things. Maybe you were there for some moments and maybe you weren’t… But you were always with me. There’s no denying there is something special about this place. Never in my life have I ever felt more love and beauty, and I often feel a piece of it pass through me in the outside world and I will think of you. I am who I am standing in front of you today, because of your love. I am eternally grateful that my soul was put in this place and touched by all you people because you have raised me, you are all in me, and you are all wonderful. This place is indescribably wonderful. And I will carry it with me in my heart as long as I shall live. And for all of that, I thank you.

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KEELEY O’KEEFE

Good Morning. My name is Keeley O’Keefe and I will be attending Wofford College this fall, majoring in Finance and Political Science with minors in German Language and Philosophy.  I will also play Lacrosse for Wofford. 

There is good in everyone.  Good men can unwittingly open the door to evil.  I do not tell you that there are no evil men.  I do not tell you that those who turn to betrayal, to theft, to murder and treason, do so only because they are good men who have been led astray.  I tell you only that all men begin as good.  What they are taught as children, what is expected of them as young men and women, is either the armor about that goodness or the flaw that allows evil in.  Yet we must not forget our responsibility to teach them correctly.  To use discipline when discipline is required, yes, but also to use gentleness and love whenever we may.  To be sure that which we discipline is, indeed, a wrongful act.  And to teach our children to know wrong from right themselves.  To teach them to judge with clear eyes and unclouded hearts, fearless.  To teach them it does not matter who tells them something is right or wrong, but whether or not it is right or wrong.  To teach them the world is a vast and wondrous place, one that holds challenges, promises, and tasks fit to test the mettle of any mortal.  To teach them that to truly know God, they must find Him in themselves and in the daily lives they live.   It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. 

I was flying back from Destin to Charlotte last night, and as the plane approached Charlotte Douglas last night, I looked out the window and saw the city spread out below me.  The cluster of lights that was uptown, the brightly lit streets of Park road and Sharon Road leading down to South Park.  Thousands of people going about their lives.  People I’ve probably passed on the streets, people I’ve seen at school or at work.  All of these people with lives that are just as complex as my own.  Lives filled with love and loss and birth and death and joy and sorrow.  Looking down on our brightly lit city, I looked back to my own past.  My own joys and sorrows, many of which were shared with the people of this congregation.  I though I felt nostalgia for the person I had been, and hope for the person I was turning into.  But here is the truth of nostalgia: we don’t feel it for who we were, but who we weren’t.  We feel is for all the possibilities that were open to us, but that we didn’t take.  Time is like wax dripping from a candle flame.  In the moment it is molten and falling, with the capability to transform into any shape.  Then the moment passes and the wax hits the table top and solidifies into the shape it will always be.  It becomes the past.  A solid, single record of what happened, still holding in its wild curves and contours the potential of every shape it could have held.  It is impossible, no matter how blessed you are by luck, or the government, or an invisible deity gently steering your life with hands made of moonlight and wind, it is impossible not to feel a bit sad looking at that bit of wax.  That bit of the past. It is impossible not to think of all the wild forms that wax will now never take.  Every choice that is made turns our lives in a brand new direction, forging though time and space to where we are today.  We may look at that bit of wax, that bit of the past, and feel a bit sad, but we also look at where we stand.  Our place in the cosmos is small, but it is fantastic.  Everything is just a matter of perspective.  We must learn to look past the things we think we see, move our heads just a touch to the left – and glance in a world of perspectives – and then…we might see it: an entire universe in the corner of our eye.

For all of the youth and children in the church,  I know you won’t believe me now, but in a few years you’ll get it.  Don’t worry about what other people think.  They’re too busy looking at themselves to look at you.  As Doctor Seuss so eloquently put it, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  It is okay to cry.  It is okay to not be sure about the future.  To be scared.  It is okay.  It is okay to fail because in failure there is a lesson we learn.  It is okay to make mistakes.  And most importantly, you are not a grade.  You are not a number.  You are a human, blessed by God, with a life that runs deeper than a grade at school. 

The whole point of my philosophical ramblings about life and the past is God.  We give praise to God by living a life for Him.  Our actions are our praise just as much as our words.  In life’s journey, you will be hurt.  You will be knocked down.  You will fail.  But then you will succeed.  You will find your calling and your place in the world that God created for His children and rejoice in his name.

I’d like to leave you with a question to ponder.  Are we living a life that is safe from harm?  Of course not.  We never are.  But that is not the right question.  The Question is: Are we living a life that is worth the harm?

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LAURA PORTER

Good Morning ladies and gentlemen, my name is Laura Porter, you all look marvelous today and I hope you’re doing swell.

Technicalities 1st- I am a current Senior at Myers Park High School and will be attending the University of Tennessee in the fall (go vols) as an Animal Science Major.

Today I am going to talk about where I found God in my life.

A fact you may not know about me is that I love to listen to the radio. I almost always have it on in my car even when I’m not singing along. It breaks the silence. I do not like the sound of silence, it is a lonely friend. Silence is unnerving to me.

If you open your bulletin to the insert,you will see 4 songs that to me are about finding God in this great big world and how God is often in the most random places, places where you might not expect him to be. I highly encourage you to look these songs up when you get home.

God is everywhere you look. Like the George Strait song says- “ A flower growing in the middle of the sidewalk/pushing up through the concrete/ like it was planted right there for me to see.” He is not only in the typical places you might expect to find him but he is wherever you need him to be God is there. God is wherever you call him to be in your life. I would like to share with you the places I found God.

I found God on top of a mountain while I was  running through the woods and thorn bushes, trying to start a fire at midnight with 3 matches and some sticks wearing a tank top and nike shorts, because I was so excited to be apart of a special challenge at my summer camp called Belle, I had forgotten to change and put on a real shirt. (ask me more about this later if you’re curious to whole story, it’s kind of a long tale)

I found God atop the mountains of Colorado at YL camp during my 15 minutes of silence with the Lord when every time I would finish a thought in my head or a prayer in my heart, a star would go across the sky like he was signaling back to me, I am here and I am listening to you.

I found God in his creation, at the top of Mount Chrysolite, past the altitude the air force requires O2, past the tree line, passing patches of snow trudging up the mountain. Honestly I didn’t think I was going to reach the top and every time I thought we had finally reached the peak, another switchback appeared taking me further up the rock. But when I got to the top and I looked out across the continental divide my whole mind and body went into shock at how freaking cool and awesome and fabulous his creation is. In genesis is tells us that: He created all things and he calls them good and he approves. I tell you that view was very good. This is a concept that can be hard for me to grasp sometimes, that God made good and he approves,  but standing in the middle of his wonderful creation I am overcome with the sense of the lord and that he is indeed good.  

I found God when I was scared out of my wits at JROTC summer camp on top of a rappel tower and the only way down was a 40ft cargo net with a foam block at the bottom. The lord will give you strength and courage and power even if you’re just saying “dear god please don’t let me die” because that’s the only thing that can come to your mind because you’re so scared. Calling upon God is instinctive to the point sometimes it can feel like blank words coming from my mouth. He comes to your rescue, like the footprints in the sand poem by Mary Stevenson says “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.” If you need God to be somewhere he will come and he will be by your side whether you realize it in the moment or not.

I found God when I couldn’t walk for 2 months because of Tendon Surgery on my right foot. This was one of the most humbling experiences of my entire life and I found him through learning to be humble and accept assistance. Sometimes I need to seek help in my physical life and this is something I have struggled with actually doing. I like to do it on my own unless there is no other way, but I have learned through experiences especially my surgery recovery that you cannot live without help from this world. If you ask for people help, you can ask for his now too.

I found him through the people who came to see me during my recovery. Who showed me what love through fellowship and caring really meant. Like my buddy who came and sat with me everyday after school like clockwork for almost a month keeping me company. I saw God in his companionship.

There have been times in my life where some terrible, bad things have happened to the people I love and have made me question his presence. During these times I tend to find God in small obscure ways, like in the oil rigs that twinkle off the coast of Galveston, very small and hard to see but nevertheless shining bright enough to where you know they have to be there, rooted deep enough into the bedrock you know the storms can’t take them away. Or in the fire sparks of my bonfires, even when it’s out a fire can always be re-ignited.

I found God when I would come home from middle school, mad and upset because another day had gone by where I was the butt of everyone’s jokes. I remember very clearly standing in the kitchen and my mother looked at me and reminded me of line 4 from Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death, I fear no evil, Your rod and your staff comfort me.” Reminding me that I am not less than me because of what others say, and I don’t have to be afraid of them. Exodus 14:14 says, “The lord will fight for you and you need only to be still” God is on my side and he plays for my team

I found God in the miracles I have seen, mainly working at the equine hospital for my cousin and uncle, I’ve seen animals come back from the brink when we all thought the worst was going to come.

I have seen miracles through my friends who would be on the streets if it weren’t for the generosity of one student who took in 2 of his good friends so that they would have places to stay. God puts people in certain places according to what he wants. I hear it all the time but until I can find a tangible example of a concept I don’t grasp it, I just hear it.

The biggest miracle where I see God and my daily reminder that he is real and around is in a little horse named: Capri.

I could talk all day about her but I will try and sum it up.

If there is a definition of a miracle she is one of them. Born on February 28th, 2011, abandoned by her mother, she was left to die by the farmer who owned her mother.She was seen as less than worthy of saving to the farmer. Thankfully a wonderful couple did save her. The vet just about guaranteed her death and told the couple she would not make it through the night as she had no immune system or antibodies. Thanks to the grace of the lord and the couple’s love of her she turned 5, two months ago, and I have gotten the privilege of working and training her.

I think alot of us can relate to this little horse, we wonder what about us makes us actually worthy of pulling out the dark pasture and reviving, what makes us worthy of a shot at life. The hope that God has for us to see him and spread his light and love is why we each got saved and survived beyond the odds to have the life put back in us, because Jesus had the life taken out of him.

I found God in her when I think of the miracle she is.. I am not calling her God, however every attribute I have ever been told that applies to the Lord, I can think of a time where I have seen the same attributes in Capri. She is kind, she is loving, she is forgiving. She will tell you when you are wrong, not always give you a way to fix it, be celebrate when you do. She is always happy to see you no matter what happened the last time you were together, unconditional love

The best example of what unconditional love is- think of a dog when his human comes home.

I talked earlier about how I hate the sound of silence, however when I find the lord somewhere, I love it, it doesn’t bother me. God fills the space silence leaves when I do find him.  I prefer the sound of creation when I feel his presence, he is his creation. I found God in the unusual and out of the ordinary places.

We each find God and God finds us too. He finds us and he puts us in places to help others find him, or to help them find their way out of the valley of the shadow of death. I am still finding out where and when God found me at this point in my life but I know for certain where I found him.

There are too many folks to list, but those who helped guide me to the places where I found him I am forever thankful to you.

There is a quote I would like to share with you today and I hope you find a way to make it applicable to your life. I have it taped above my bed on the ceiling so I will see it every morning when I wake up. As told to me by Ms. Johnie Armstrong- “Isn’t it funny that princes and kings and clowns that caper in sawdust rings, and the common folk like you and me are the builders of eternity. For everyday when you wake up you are given, a box of tools, a book of rule and a mound of which to shape, and what you do with each day, will determine whether you create a stumbling block or a stepping stone on your way to eternity”

I found God in the world of his creation, in the unexpected places where I wouldn’t think to look. I challenge you to find a place where you see the lord everyday, somewhere you wouldn’t think to find him, but when you look close enough he is there always reminding you he is near, no matter what is happening in your life. Thank you for listening and may you always feel him near.

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WILL REID

It was Day 6 of our Philmont trek, and we’d been hiking for about 12 miles. It had been a very very long day. One of our scout leaders had to be evacuated at lunch due to an infected blister on his foot, and we’d just come right up to the brink of running out of water in the driest place on our whole trek. We were between two dry camps, and the fifteen of us had maybe a liter of water to go around. Our group was in the middle of nowhere, hiking up a rocky, washed out hill in the desert that some worker from the camp thought would be really funny to name Santa Claus. We’re sitting on this hill, with parched throats and headaches from dehydration, and they want us to appreciate the irony of a hill named after Santa? At this point those of us that still had the energy were seriously contemplating backtracking the couple of miles back to that stream we foolishly passed up, our hubris disguising the fact we didn’t really have enough water. Right about then is when the group from Iowa showed up. They were freshly loaded up on water, and graciously gave up some of their supply for us to drink. After thanking them profusely, we both went our separate ways, us up the hill and them down. That was the first time we saw God that day.  After hiking over a severely rutted and washed out dirt road for what felt like forever, we were on the final rise into camp. At this point we were trekking along the left side of a nicely forested, albeit hot valley, and we had a very nice view across it. Except for the fact that on the other side of the valley was a nice big storm front slowly rolling its way towards us. Try as we might, this was not a cloud we could outrun. Finally, after watching our impending doom approach for about 20 minutes, it hit us. Everyone stopped to throw on their rain gear, and we resumed our trek. After plodding through the rain and feeling the energy deflate from the group, I heard someone start up a song. It was not one I’d heard before, but I picked up on it pretty quickly. It goes something like this:

“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary Pure and holy, tried and true With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living Sanctuary for You.”

So we’re hiking along singing this hymn, we hit the chorus after a verse, and just like that the rain stops. And it didn’t just stop, it completely went away and didn’t rain a drop the entire rest of the day, and all the way through the night. That was a very powerful moment in my life because it was one of the times where I could really feel the presence of God. It’s hard to describe to other people what it feels like when you can feel the power of God surrounding you, and that’s why I’m so glad that Trinity has been my church home for the past seventeen years. All of my teachers, mentors, and friends here taught me what having God in your life is like, and thanks to their teaching, every time I see God in my life, I’m able to recognize it. To quote Proverbs 22:6 “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” This message rings very true in my experience here. Every Trinity member is a good example of how to live a life with God, and watching and learning from you has been foundational in my faith journey. I served as the chaplain on that Philmont trek, and I know from the hours of conversation we had in camp that night, spared from the rain, that there were boys who said that was hands down the closest they’ve ever been to God. For me, I wasn’t so sure. Because of all the teachers I’ve had at Trinity, I know God has been and always will be with me. I can think of many times I’ve felt him in my life, and I’m very grateful for that. I want to thank all the members of Trinity, especially my teachers, for showing me how to live in the presence of the Lord. I know I would not be where I am today without your help. I also want to take a moment to thank all of you for supporting my Eagle project. I am so grateful for the support that Trinity and its members showed me on my project. I could not have completed it without your help. As I move forward to college next year, I will keep all the lessons you have taught me in my heart.