Two of Westminster’s graduating seniors preached on Youth Sunday.
High: As some of y’all may know, Jack and I are somewhat inseparable.
Dozier: But, what you may not know is that back before the age of 1, we were inseparable and also apparently interchangeable.
High: It was your usual Sunday morning, our parents were in church and we were in the nursery downstairs.
Dozier: Our parents walked down the stairs together to pick us up after the service ended just as they normally would.
High: When the people working the nursery handed us over to our parents to leave, I was in Jack’s car seat and he was in mine.
Dozier: To be honest, blond-haired blue-eyed boys named Jack were probably not that hard to mix up.
High: Just to be clear, I am Jack High…
Dozier: and I’m Jack Dozier.
Dozier: While John’s message seems pretty clear and straightforward, understanding the true meaning of this passage can be difficult if taken out of context. Jesus’ new commandment to the disciples is told on the night of the Last Supper during Holy Week. Jesus knows his death is near, so he chooses to share one final meal with his friends before his departure. Once the meal ends, it’s up to the disciples to spread God’s word and continue Jesus’ work in his absence.
It seems odd that Jesus would be saying this now. The disciples have spent years following him, listening to his teachings and witnessing how to live life the way God wants us to. Why would God make such a big deal out of the ten commandments if we could just follow this one, easy-to-remember commandment? Why reveal this big secret now after so much time? The new commandment isn’t really "new," but more of a summary of everything the disciples have learned over the years. By using his last words to plant this seed in their minds, Jesus hopes we will remember this one message if we don’t remember anything else, and by doing so and showing love to everyone we meet, everyone will know us as Christian.
It’s also important to note that Jesus just foretold his betrayal by Judas, who was sitting at the table with them. Judas left the room to sell out Jesus immediately before he gives this new commandment. Even with this fresh on his mind, he avoids talking about it and goes on to tell the disciples to love one another, no matter what.
High: Jesus knows fully well what is going to happen– that Judas is going to betray him and this will lead to the end of his life on Earth– but he somehow still finds a way to love. I personally know not a single person who is able to love as unconditionally as this, but that is no wonder since he is Jesus. In our daily lives, we find the smallest things that deter us from loving one another, yet here Jesus is loving the person who is handing him over to death unconditionally. We hear all the time about the golden rule- "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and this text from the Bible is a perfect example of Jesus showing how this is done.
Dozier: This new commandment of love is one that can be both given and received. Throughout my entire life and experience growing up at this church, I’ve been on the receiving end more times than I can count. Growing up in Chapel Hill, my church community was completely separate from my community at school and at home. After participating in Sunday School every week, Vacation Bible School every summer, churchwide events like the musicals every year, and hundreds of youth group trips and events once I was in sixth grade, I developed some of the closest friendships I’ve ever had.
Two years ago, when Jack High and I were sophomores in high school, these friendships strengthened even more. Anna Rosemond and my brother Will were seniors, and Allie Ruffing and Jack Mountain were juniors. No longer having older kids in youth group to hang out with and look up to, they turned towards Ben Mountain, Jack, and I. It started with Sunday School, where we were all finally in the same class together. We developed a weekly routine, eating all three meals of the day together on Sunday: Bruegger’s Bagels at Sunday School, lunch together after the 11 o’clock service, and dinner at youth group. They showed us unconditional love, driving us to lunch, taking us on ski trips, bringing us to Bible Studies at Panera, spending time with us on mission trips, and hanging out with us throughout the year even when we weren’t at church. Even as we’ve gotten older and they’ve gone their separate ways for college, we’ve all stayed in touch, still go on trips together, and still hang out when we’re all in town for breaks. Without this church, I would never have met these people. This love is an amazing gift that I am beyond thankful to have received.
High: Westminster is so special in that we have so many opportunities to live out God’s love that we would not have anywhere else. The best example for me of giving love is mission, whether that be through service nights at Youth Group or summer trips to places like Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta. A specific time I remember during a mission trip that i really felt like i was giving out God’s love was in Chicago while working at a thrift store right next to the church where we were staying. It was run by a little old lady who, although pretty capable, had no employees and could not get much done alone. We cleaned out the store, rearranged all of the items and lifted all of the heavy things that she could not lift by herself. To say the least, she was extremely grateful for us that day. We came in the next day and she looked happier than ever, explaining that she was thinking about giving up on the store, but we made her change her mind. This is just one example of many where I have really felt like I was giving out God’s unconditional love.
To the kids: From being downstairs in preschool every day to singing with Guitar man on Sunday mornings, Westminster was a huge part of my childhood. As a kid at Westminster, I grew up absolutely admiring and looking up to the youth. I couldn’t wait until I finally could come on Sunday nights to hang out with all the cool older kids, and soon enough I was there. But the thing about not yet being a "youth" is that there are still so many things to do before you get to 6th grade that prepare you for it. Go to Sunday School, go to we form, and do whatever else you can before you get to youth group. And remember, you only get to be a kid once, however awesome getting older may seem.
Dozier: To the Youth: If you haven’t already realized it, youth group is pretty awesome. There aren’t many other groups you can be involved with that will give you such a fun and enriching experience. As you get older and some of your friends stop coming to youth group when their lives get busier, I strongly encourage you to keep coming back. Make the time to come to church every Sunday and go on at least one trip every year. I guarantee that you will look back on your middle school and high school years and be thankful that you stuck with it. Also, no matter where you end up in your life’s journey, remember to show love to one another. Be welcoming to new people you meet and show kindness to everyone, no matter what their story is. A small action can go a long way.
High: When I think of the congregation of Westminster, I think about some of the nicest people that I have ever encountered. I think about the people who give me blessings as I depart for a mission trip, and the people who welcome me back after a long, hard week. I think about the people who greet me at the doors of the sanctuary every Sunday morning and welcome me once again. I think about the people that pray for myself and the rest of the youth day in, day out. Jesus’ new commandment is based on unconditional love, and I see this concept in action throughout the congregation.
Dozier: To the Parents: Thank you for bringing your children to Westminster. You have one of the biggest responsibilities of demonstrating your love to your kids. Encourage your kids to sign up for youth group and stay in it as long as they can. Sign them up for as many mission trips as you can, and continue to support them as they grow both physically and spiritually. Help your children to structure their day and their time to get their homework done ahead of time and make youth group a priority. Get involved with youth group. Being a sponsor is awesome and we truly appreciate everything they do for us. However, you don’t have to be a sponsor to be involved. You can provide a meal, host a class dinner, or chaperone a trip. By investing in the youth group, you will be helping the youth become people who will spread love to everyone they meet.
Dozier: Jesus said to the disciples, "Where I am going, you cannot come." As Jack and I head off to college and embark on the next chapter of our lives, you all cannot come with us. We will always remember the great times we’ve had growing up in such a nurturing community, but now we are leaving. Even though we will soon be gone, we leave knowing that this church will continue to do what it does best: love one another.
High: Moving on and making big changes isn’t easy for anyone, but I know that as I move on, Westminster will always be a part of me, and I know that I will always be a part of it. As Jack and I move forward, we know that Westminster will keep doing its thing and giving out God’s unconditional love in every way it can. And though we’ll be gone, we will always remember how much this church became a part of us.