This homily is from the 12th Annual Teens Encounter Christ retreat weekend, given by Katherine Davis of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, a partner church with the Cathedral for this event.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It almost seems ironic to use a prayer talking of never ending ventures when summarizing the END of a retreat weekend. Yet to me, the end of TEC always seems more like a page break then a definite end.
Before I continue, I should introduce myself. My name is Katherine. I am 17 years old, almost 18 if that counts for anything. I am a senior at Lewis and Clark High School. And before you ask I have no idea what I’m doing next year. My favorite literary genre is 19th Century British Literature. I like going to bed early. I am attempting to learn how to ski. And I just happen to be a Lutheran.
My religion has always been much more of a singular character trait then an overall personality. When meeting someone new, I never start the conversation with a summary of my opinions of the bible. When it comes to worship, I fall on the quieter end of the spectrum, often wondering if I am more religious or spiritual. Maybe that is why I enjoy TEC so much. When I walk into this building I am more than just a Lutheran. I am a story. I am a collection of words and pictures. A chaotic mess of things I have been and things I will be. I am empowered by the questions I ask and the stories I tell.
The hardest part of leaving TEC is going to be saying goodbye to a tradition that has introduced me to one of the best communities in the world. To some of the most amazing stories in the world. TEC has introduced me to some amazing people. When I look at them I see, musicians, artists, fighters, athletes, actors, and dreamers. I see a collection of very proud Nintendo switch owners. I see choir nerds, band geeks, and jazz fanatics. I see the leaders of tomorrow and the change makers of today. I see people who support one another and share god’s love. The end, makes time see rather finite.
Time, is a very funny thing. It seems to have the ability to move entirely too fast, and entirely too slow at the same time. My first TEC I remember thinking that the student leaders were practically adults who had their lives figured out. Now, my friends and I are the student leaders who are supposed to have their lives figured out. Yet, I still feel like the freshman who stumbled into St. John’s Cathedral so many years ago. In some ways I still feel like the child sitting in preschool at St. Marks Church. In this instance time is an Olympic sprinter, forcing me to move rapidly forward into the great unknown. Of course, there is a flip side to every coin. There have been times when a day felt like a lifetime. When the future is terrifying not because of the uncertainty but because it seems to be a lifetime away. In this instance, time is a slug inching down the sidewalk, forcing me to think. Perhaps time is most terrifying because it signifies an end. As Alan Watts would say, “life implies death, or rather death implies life.” We trust, that at the end of this life, there will be something. It is incredibly difficult to trust something you cannot see. Yet, and I will say this again and again, the opposite of faith is certainty. Faith is the ultimate form of trust, in yourself, in others, and in Christ. This faith can stem from the style of god in churches, or mosques, or synagogues. This faith can stem from the natural world, the infinite universe. But again and again, it comes back to us. This being said, our time on earth will run out. The alternating pattern between Olympic sprinter and sidewalk slug will stop. The sun will stop burning. And when we are reunited with the father our tangible blessings will be useless. Relationships and experiences are the only eternal currency, and TEC and Christ has made us rich.
TEC has an incredible power. It allows you to have faith in small things. It forces one to focus on being a blessing, something all of us can work on. Most of religion is learning how to walk a fine line between faith and doubt. Life is much more enjoyable when one focuses on the small blessings God has given us. We focus on the big gifts, only to fall into despair when things fall apart. Yet there is a world of wonder behind every cheesy picture, every friend, every TEC talk, every raindrop, behind yourself. It is difficult to have faith in God, when you do not have faith in yourself.
I have always prided myself in my ability to collect my thoughts on paper, but when talking about TEC I am wordless. How do you describe something that changed your life. Something that has become a silent routine, and yet next year it will be gone. TEC has given me people and memories I will always treasure. I may not see God in a lot of the traditional places, but I do see him in people. People are walking miracles, gifts. I see God in Bee Movie parties, painting sessions, I see God huddled around the pool table in the basement of this Cathedral, and huddled together on the floor in front of the altar.
Faith makes things possible, love makes them easy.
TEC has given me highest form of love, Agape.
Love is almost a horrible thing, isn’t it? It makes us vulnerable, and we hate being vulnerable. As soon as you open up your heart to someone you give them the chance to get inside and mess everything up. But then sometimes, love just… works. You meet someone and everything clicks and you can give them a piece of you and you grow. That is unconditional love, agape. TEC is full of people who know me, know my mistakes, and still love me. If that is not an act of God, I don’t know what is.
This is the basis of “love thy neighbor as thyself”
Even when love is great, it can have its side effects. It is going to hurt to say goodbye to TEC. The kind of hurt that spreads out from your chest and seems to rip you ribs apart. Perhaps that is why I have been talking for so long. Because when these words end, part of my TEC experience will be gone.
But, one must remember that the bedrock of this community, the people, will always exist. Our future achievements are deepened by those sitting in these pews, those who believe in us. We, together, are rays from heaven. Once created, now the creators. The Holden Farewell Prayer calls us to never ending adventures. The “end” of TEC is simply the end of a chapter, full of wisdom and tools for our future. God is an artist, yet through him we paint our own futures and weave our own destinies. The end of TEC is the final brush stroke on a beautiful painting that has taken me four years to complete. No matter where you are on your masterpiece, the lesson remains the same, let Christ’s love spread through you onto the next blank canvas.
Here, at TEC we have a little tradition. After talks we play a song. While the general message of the song is for everyone, I’d like to give a little shout out to my fellow seniors.
In times of trouble, I will always find my way back to you.
“Rivers and Roads” by The Head and The Heart