Most of you have been in this for a while.  By this, I mean you have been followers of Jesus and the Way for several years.  On Ash Wednesday, we had a service where we began a journey over 40 days leading up to Easter.  It’s a time of self-reflection, a time to contemplate your life and your personal journey with our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  For several, it’s a time to give up something that may be getting in the way of that relationship.  Or you may have chosen to add more prayer time, scripture reading time, or time serving others.  The journey, though, is not just limited to 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  It’s true that this is a time when we reflect, but what about before and after?

On March 3rd and 4th we hosted a youth retreat here for middle and high schoolers from 5 different churches in our Presbytery.  We spent a good amount of our time together going through an exercise of self-reflection on where we feel we are in our individual journeys with God.  To be honest I had high expectations of what God would do during our time together.  When you work with teenagers though, what you expect doesn’t always happen the way you think it should.  And that’s okay.  Over the years I’ve learned that God is in the business of touching and changing hearts.  My job is to point them toward Him.

Where is this heading?  We have an opportunity for the mature in faith to impart wisdom to those who are just beginning their journeys of faith.  Those of you who have been doing this for years have an opportunity to invest in the next generation.  How do you do that?  First, pray for them.  Pray that they won’t be victims of the temptations that Satan throws at them.  Jesus’s example for our Lenten season revealed that during physical hunger, He relied on spiritual food.  When Satan challenged His faith in God, He answered with the truth that man can find no satisfaction in false gods.  And when Satan tested Jesus with provision in the midst of trials, Jesus answered Him that God’s will cannot be twisted by mere whim or by what we think is best in the situation.  Pray that these young people will follow and love God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength, and love one another as much as they love and care for themselves.  Reach out to them and introduce yourself.  Be genuinely happy that they’ve chosen to be here on Wednesday evenings even if they never cross the doors on Sunday.  Maybe, just maybe, some of you will see your younger selves in them, or see the similarity between them and a grandchild, and want for them the same good.  Maybe when they see what genuine love looks like they’ll want to be around more than just Wednesday.  Maybe God’s trying to get you to point them to Him as a part of your sacrifice for Lent.  Include them in your prayers and show them genuine love. Here are their names: Olivia Thomas, Emilee Higgs, Emily Fischels, Keelie Carter, Cody Jervis, Justin Case, Allie Downey, Matiah Hawkins, Madison Cummings, Abby Brown, Ashlee Goodwin, Cheradon White, Kaleb White, Makayla Stone, Haley Cope, Hunter Harris, Dee Allen, Jonathon Yates, Isabella Tapp, and Alexander Howard.  There are others who have graced our group in the past but have not returned.  We have a saying, “It only takes one visit to be a part of our family!”  We pray that they are still on their journeys with God, finding their way toward a better understanding of how wide and deep His love is for them.  May we be the ones who lean into them and share what truth and love look like, because we have Easter to point to the truth of God’s love for us!  And may we celebrate His love and sacrifice that give us life eternal and life abundant. God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.”  Deuteronomy 6:4-6

Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Matthew 22:37-39