Sermon: Teenager of the Year (2023)

View the Sermon on our YouTube.

“Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3).

When are you most fully alive? My friend Rhonda Magee felt fully alive when she was sixteen years old. The world was opening up, college was around the corner. Life had not been easy but she had reason to hope. Rhonda and a boy named Jake were head over heels in love. Then just before she left town for a summer university course, he told her over the phone, “My father kicked me out of the house.” She asked him why. He said, “You know why… I told you how he is. It’s because of us. He said no son of his is going to be dating a black girl…”[i]

Rhonda felt gripped by pain. She was an A student and about to be chosen as the town’s Teenager of the Year. Yet her race – a category created by others and that she felt did not capture much of who she really was – made her unacceptable to Jake’s parents. They had never met her. And yet they were willing to hurt their own son, and therefore themselves, all to teach him, Rhonda, and anyone else a lesson. They believed in white supremacy so strongly that they were ready to throw their own son out like garbage.

We all have beliefs like this. They diminish us and damage the people around us. The social theorist bell hooks assert that racism in America is a crisis of “lovelessness.” Certainly, the current anti-LGBTQ+ legislation illustrates the terrible lovelessness that has this country in its grip. The poverty in this city does too. But these are just a few of many stories we carry that poison our life, that prevent us from ever being fully alive.

The stories we tell about ourselves as individuals also can harm us. Even as a child, psychologist Brené Brown knew that “People will do almost anything to not feel pain, including causing pain and abusing power.” She realized that “very few people can handle being held accountable without rationalizing, blaming or shutting down.” As a result, “Without understanding how our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors work together, it’s almost impossible to find our way back to ourselves and each other. When we don’t understand how our emotions shape our thoughts and decisions, we become disembodied from our own experiences and disconnected from each other.”[ii]

We feel alive when we come home to ourselves and to God when we can become connected in a new way to our past and to each other. This encounter, the forgiveness we experience in Jesus, lies at the heart of the resurrection. Easter is the chance for a new story to take hold in our life. It is the beginning of a new era when everyone will belong and have the chance to thrive. God’s love dares to include those who do not fit, the ones who the powerful cannot abide.[iii] Through God, we can be free of the hold that fear and death have on us.

No one really knows what happened at dawn that morning before Mary Magdalene and the other Mary felt the earth-shaking. They saw the guards frozen like dead men by fear and watched an angel who looked like lightning come down from heaven and roll back the stone at the tomb. There is no way to make Easter fully understandable.

This does not mean it is illogical. Matt Fitzgerald remembers the Easter when his daughter was in kindergarten, and the church sent each child home with a plastic purple Easter egg. Inside was not chocolate but a little slip of paper. His daughter was learning to read, and so she sounded out the three-word message. “He is… raisins?” “He is raisins is illogical. He is risen is merely incomprehensible.” When we speak about God we have to “distinguish between things that do not make sense and things we cannot make sense of.”[iv] God cannot be contained, confined, described, or defined. But we can meet God in the person of Jesus on Easter morning.

The Gospels of Mark and Luke mention anointing, but in the Gospel of Matthew, the women come simply “to see” the tomb. The Greek word theōrēsai means to observe, analyze, and discern with the connotation that one is involved and committed. It is related to our words theory, theoretical, and theater, that onstage action helps us to better understand human life.

After meeting the angel, the two women leave the tomb quickly with fear and great joy. Jesus greets them with a word (xairete) that means both hello and rejoice (like the word aloha means hello and love). He says, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Mt. 28). He offers this message of comfort and forgiveness to friends who abandoned him.

In the second century, Irenaeus said that the Glory of God is the human being fully alive. Feeling fully alive often involves an experience of joy. What is joy?

Greek has the word makarios for happiness or blessedness. It is the word repeated frequently in the beatitudes as in, “blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt. 5). The ancient Greeks regarded this kind of happiness as the freedom that rich people might have from normal cares and worries. These are the people who have good fortune, health and money.[v]

On the other hand, the Greek word for joy is xara. It is related to our word Grace. It means to be fulfilled. The perfect version of xara can only be found in God. The Greeks thought that this experience did not surprise us haphazardly. Rather this joy naturally comes with wisdom and virtue. To use more modern language, it is the pleasure that comes with a spiritual connection. We do not lose ourselves in joy – we become more deeply ourselves in it.[vi]

Joy is surprisingly difficult for us. Part of the reason for this is that joy as an emotion requires us to be vulnerable. Last winter, I came across a new expression for a feeling I recognize. It is “foreboding joy.”[vii] It refers to that sense of hesitation we feel when it comes to joy. We don’t want to be too joyful because we are irrationally afraid that this will somehow cause something bad to happen.

Psychologists who study this say that 95 percent of parents interviewed have experienced this with their children. We hold back because we think it will make us hurt less later.

One man in his sixties said, “I used to think that the best way to go through life was to expect the worst. That way, if it happened, you were prepared, and if it didn’t happen, you would be pleasantly surprised. Then I was in a car accident, and my wife was killed. Needless to say, expecting the worst didn’t prepare me at all. And worse, I still grieve for all of those wonderful moments we shared that I didn’t fully enjoy. My commitment to her is to fully enjoy every moment… I just wish she was here, now that I know how to do that.”[viii]

Experiencing joy means being vulnerable in love. So how do we cultivate a propensity for joy in our ordinary lives beyond a willingness to really feel joy and to let others see our weakness? The simple answer is to practice gratitude. Gratitude is not an attitude, it is not a feeling. It is something we do over and over, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. For me, gratitude lies at the heart of my prayer life and what we do here.

Last week I was giving a tour of the archives when I found a sermon Alan Jones preached at Grace Cathedral in 1990. It moved me so deeply that I wanted just to read the entire manuscript to you. Alan refers to a French priest named Jean Sulivan, who describes Western cultures as spiritually impoverished and undeveloped, as unawake and unaware of the miracle right in front of our noses.[ix]

That miracle is the miracle of being. It is the miracle that we are. If you want a miracle, look at yourself. Our life is the love story of God trying to reach us, to help us.

Have you ever wanted to meet a famous person? I always wished that I could spend a day with the nineteenth-century poet Walt Whitman. He wrote a poem called “Miracles.”

“… As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, / Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, / Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, / Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge / of the water, / Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love, / Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, / Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, / Or watch honey-bees around the hive of a summer forenoon… Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars / shining so quiet and bright, / Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; / These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, / The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place…”[x] When are you most fully alive? In the face of overwhelming lovelessness, and the pain that causes more pain, there is a new story. Jesus calls us to come home to ourselves and to God. So in gratitude, let us see the world with a new intent. Let us leave behind our foreboding joy and know

[i] Rhonda V. Magee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness (NY: Penguin Random House, 2019) 11-13.

[ii] Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart (NY: Random House, 2021) xx.

[iii] Alan Jones, “Easter Day: Take Time for Paradise,” Grace Cathedral Sermons, 15 April 1990.

[iv] Matt Fitzgerald, “Thunderous Yes: Preaching to the Easter Crowds, “The Christian Century, 10 April 2014.

[v] Ibid., 204ff.

[vi] Ibid., 205.

[vii] Ibid., 215.

[viii] Ibid., 50.

[ix] This paragraph and the next come from: Alan Jones, “Easter Day: Take Time for Paradise,” Grace Cathedral Sermons, 15 April 1990

[x] “Why, who makes much of a miracle? / As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, / Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, / Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, / Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge / of the water, / Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love, / Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, / Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, / Or watch honey-bees around the hive of a summer forenoon / Or animals feeding in the fields, / Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, / Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars / shining so quiet and bright, / Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; / These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, / The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place. // To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, / Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, / Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread / with the same, // To me the sea is a continual miracle, / The fishes that swim – the rocks – the motion of the / waves – the ships with men in them, / What stranger miracles are there?”

Walt Whitman, “Miracles,” Leaves of Grass.


What do you preach on Youth Sunday? ›

  • The Days Of Thy Youth. ...
  • Let No Man Despise Thy Youth. ...
  • Refuge for the Loneliness of Youth (7 of 29) ...
  • Remember Your Creator in the Days of Your Youth (7 of 14) ...
  • The Youth Pastor's Vital Resource: Living In And Under The Powerful Anointing Of The Holy Spirit. ...
  • Remember to Rejoice in Your Youth (14 of 15)

What is a good topic to preach about to youth? ›

It's vital to prioritize mental health and mental illness when thinking of preaching topics for youth. Young people need to feel like their mental health matters and that their problems are not trivial. Depression and anxiety plague today's teens, causing them to cope in unhealthy, dangerous, and sinful ways.

What is the best message for youth? ›

Don't lose hope, be as smart and as patient that nothing stops you from what you wish to achieve. YOU ARE UNIQUE IN THE WAY YOU ARE. You are lucky more than you think, just believe in yourself everything will come to you in the right time. KEEP STRUGGLING AND SHINING!

What is the scripture for importance of youth ministry? ›

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

What are the topics to teach youths in church with Bible verses? ›

25 Best Topics to Teach Youth at Church
  • Why does the Old Testament matter?
  • How to be a good friend.
  • The power of God's love.
  • The importance of God's Word.
  • How to love your family members.
  • How to navigate mental health.
  • Who is the Holy Spirit?
  • The Gospel is good news!
Nov 8, 2022

What are some good sermons to preach? ›

Most Popular Sermon Passages, Topics in 2021
  • Eschatology (six times more popular)
  • Grace (four times more popular)
  • Family and children.
  • Creation/renewal.
  • Philosophy.
  • Revival.
  • Cults.
  • Compromise.
Mar 31, 2022

What are the 5 major sermons? ›

The five discourses are listed as the following: the Sermon on the Mount, the Mission Discourse, the Parabolic Discourse, the Discourse on the Church, and the Discourse on End Times. Each of the discourses has a shorter parallel in the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Luke.

What attracts youth to church? ›

Churches who show sincerity in their faith and intentions are more likely to attract teenagers and reduce church dropouts. Ensure your congregation has a good reputation for being genuine and loving. Encourage congregational members to show love and respect towards younger generations.

How can I make my church fun for youth? ›

25 Church Small Group Icebreakers and Activities
  1. Bible Squeeze Relay. Have participants get into two teams, form a line and hold hands. ...
  2. Photo Scavenger Hunt. Divide into groups with at least three people who have phones. ...
  3. Team Balloon Race. ...
  4. Bible Brains. ...
  5. Twizzler Tie Up.

What are some godly quotes about youth? ›

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

What is an inspirational quote for the youth generation? ›

Youth can be the leaders of tomorrow — if we procrastinate. Ain't no power like the power of youth cos the power of youth don't stop! If you must dream of the world you want to live in, dream out loud! Youth are the solution — not the problem!

What is the best youth ministry quotes? ›

Empower the youths, Don't Entertain them!” “Be a Kingmaker, Not Just a King.” “Instead of laying a red carpet for yourself to walk on, lay a bridge and let the young people walk over to you.”

What is the lesson of Psalm 100 for youth? ›

In Psalm 100, we're reminded of God's goodness and what it means to be one of 'God's sheep. ' Through the discussion of this Psalm you'll have an opportunity to talk of the goodness of God in rescuing His people from sin through Jesus' death in our place.

What is a short Bible verse about youth ministry? ›

And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. '”

What are the five purposes of youth ministry? ›

The five purposes are worship, discipleship, fellowship, evangelism, and ministry. These should be the driving force behind everything your youth ministry does because that is what scripture commands.

How can a youth grow spiritually Bible verse? ›

You can grow in spiritual maturity by persevering in following God's plan through the trials and challenges of your life (James 1:2-18) and living a life that is Spirit-filled — that is, learning to be aware of and listen to God's Spirit, who lives within all Jesus followers (Ephesians 5:18; Romans 6:11-14).

What is a powerful sermon? ›

An effective sermon must faithfully communicate the truth of God's Word. Statistics, trends, illustrations, poems, antidotes, object lessons, pop artist rhymes, and dead theologian's quotes can be helpful, but the truth is required. Not shades of truth, pieces of the truth, or truth mixed with lies.

How do you start a sermon interesting? ›

Your first words are vitally important, so craft them well and know them so you can be present and engage your audience by looking at them. And smile. Often start with a thoughtful question, one that engages the hearers' minds in a genuine way. Often start with something humorous, intriguing, and/or personal.

What are the 4 C's of a sermon? ›

So there they are—the 5 C's of preaching: Contextual, Convictional, Clear, Compassionate, Cross-centered.

What are the 3 C's in life sermon? ›

Remember the 3C's: Choices, Chances, Changes. You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.

What is the three point sermon? ›

The three-point outline is similar to the essays you wrote in high school or college—you introduce a topic, expound on three points relating to it, then conclude by recapping what you've discussed. As you're plotting a three-point sermon, you can use this standard structure or tweak it to make it your own.

What is the most famous sermon? ›

It is Edwards' most famous written work, and a fitting representation of his preaching style.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Publication date8 July 1741
Text available at Wikisource
4 more rows

How long should a good sermon be? ›

Pastors & Clergy

On average, evangelical leaders believe sermons should be 30 minutes and church services should be 75 minutes, based on the median response. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), said, “We all have our own preferences about sermon and service length.

What is the purpose of youth Sunday? ›

National Youth Sunday is always celebrated on the Solemnity of Christ the King. On this feast, we celebrate Christ's kingship of our hearts and especially the hearts of our young people.

What do you teach youth in church? ›

25 Best Topics to Teach Youth at Church
  • Why does the Old Testament matter?
  • How to be a good friend.
  • The power of God's love.
  • The importance of God's Word.
  • How to love your family members.
  • How to navigate mental health.
  • Who is the Holy Spirit?
  • The Gospel is good news!
Nov 8, 2022

What do you preach on Sunday school? ›

15 Sunday School Lesson Theme Ideas
  • Theme: Jesus Hears Our Prayers. ...
  • Theme: Jesus is Our Anchor. ...
  • Theme: Becoming a Fisher of Men. ...
  • Theme: Convicted for Christianity. ...
  • Theme: Take Time to Rest and Enjoy God. ...
  • Theme: Me and My Big Mouth — Understanding Gossip. ...
  • Theme: Worrying about "Stuff" ...
  • Theme: Knowing the Holy Spirit.

What is the pastoral prayer for youth Sunday? ›

Almighty and gracious God, it is a privilege to worship you this day in this community of saints. May our praise be joyful, may our hearts be turned toward you, and may our souls be quenched with the waters of your Word. We give you all glory and praise and gratitude this day and forever. Amen.

What is the short message for Youth Day? ›

National Youth Day 2023: Slogans by Swami Vivekananda
  • Be a hero. ...
  • Arise awake and stop not until the goal is achieved.
  • Experience is the only teacher we have.
  • Youth is the energy of the nation, the future of a country.
  • Youth is the gift given to all by nature, value it and use it wisely.
Jan 12, 2023

What is the point of Youth Ministry in the church? ›

Youth ministry focuses on inviting those who are not already part of the church into the deeper narrative of God's plan. Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church.

What is the goal of youth church? ›

Establishing and promoting spiritual, educational and social events/activities to compliment and further the work of youth ministries. Creating and enhancing opportunities for youths to share their interests, problems, aspirations and goals which will contribute to their spiritual, moral and physical development.

What does the Bible say about teaching the youth? ›

Proverbs 22:6 In-Context

6 Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

How can I make Sunday school more interesting? ›

There are many ways to make Sunday school more fun for your children. One way is to have fun activities to do before the class starts. Another way is to have a variety of games and activities to choose from during the class. You can also try incorporating some creative learning activities into the class.

What is the short prayer for youth day? ›

God our Father, be with us on our pilgrim journey of faith. Give us the grace and courage to step forward in faith and hope on the road ahead. Open our eyes to see your face in all those we encounter.

What is the opening prayer for youth Sunday school? ›

Opening prayer for sunday school

Dear Lord Jesus, We are excited to learn more about you, to read the bible and hear stories. Thank you that we can play games together. Thank you that we can create and make things that remind us of you.

What is the prayer for youth ministry? ›

We offer to you, Loving God, the gifts and needs of youth. Bless them with your guiding grace as they face the challenges and opportunities in their lives. Touch their hearts with the gentleness of your love, that they may know they are valued and valuable beings.


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