Below please find Keith Reffitt's inspiring message on "Hope", he presented to the Sarah Jane congregation on
Youth Sunday 2014
Keith Reffitt's Message "Hope" June 22, 2014
Hello, how is everybody doing today? (Let’s try that again.) Good! ...well thanks for asking, I’m great. Would you like to know why I’m feeling great today?
I’m great because I am here with all of you wonderful people - my Sarah Jane Family. I always get a happy feeling when I walk into our church and see people’s smiling faces. As I’ve grown up, I’ve known that this is a place where I am safe and where people care about my well-being. Safe places provide a sense of security for kids and allow us to grow into ourselves without fear or having a constant attitude of self-defense. It provides a stable base on which we can build a solid future. And that is the main thing that the Sarah Jane congregation has given me - hope for the future. Without hope there is nothing. Seriously, without hope what are we doing here? We have to hope our dreams come true. We have to hope our tomorrows are even better than our today’s. We have to hope we have the power to shape our lives in a way that gives us pride and happiness.
I feel sad for all the children who don’t attend a church and feel the support of a Faith - based community. How do they combat those natural human feelings of fear, loneliness and insecurity? Without a sound foundation on which to build a life, how do they know it won’t crumble to dust? How do they hope for a bright future if their past and present are clouded by the shifting sands of self-doubt? When I come to church and feel the support of the people here I am reminded of God’s unconditional love for me. No matter what mistakes I make or careless actions I commit, God knows the true me that can be better. “For His eye is on the sparrow, so I know He watches me.” If He is watching over the littlest birds, making sure that they are okay, then I know he is taking care of each of us. We are all unique creations of God - and He loves every one of us. He made us just the way he wants us to be. We may stray from the path we should be on, but we are not mistakes. He did not make us faulty - imperfect, yes, - but not defective. He made us the way He needs us to be in order to make the world function as a whole, all parts working together. That is another reason my Sarah Jane family gives me hope. I see how much more can be accomplished if we work together and combine our talents than if we try to do it alone. If God made us all individuals, just the way He wanted, He must not want us to conform to some human standard of perfection. He wants us to find out who we are; to venture out into the world, and into our own personal relationship with Him, and discover our true selves. He leaves room for us to find our own way; to seek our own destiny and happiness. But I think he expects us to do so within the comfort of a Christian community. Within the support of our fellow man. That’s why the Golden Rule is to love others the way that you want to be loved. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Growing up in a church gives one experience of being on the receiving end of the golden rule, but also teaches the responsibility of being on the giving end. This type of responsibility is empowering. It shows children that they have the ability to give to the world, not just take from it. It shows us that we have something special and unique to contribute.
One of the most apropos bible verses for graduation is first Corinthians 13:11 - 13, “When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we will see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am known. And now these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Two things I know are true -I am still a child - but, I am growing every day with the help of God and the help of all of you, also the children of God. Second, love really is the most important aspect of life and of faith. A true Christian is a person with a heart full of love for God and his fellow man. I have always felt that love from this congregation. I have seen the desire to care for others and for the community as well as worship. It’s that love that gives me hope that I have the strength and talent to create a successful future for myself, and, hopefully, make the world better in the process too.
Jeremiah 29:11 declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Having faith in God means we should have faith in ourselves. We need to believe in the purpose for our life even if we can’t always see it clearly. We need to keep trying to walk with the Lord, because we don’t know who else’s path we might cross. By coming together here, at Sarah Jane Johnson United Methodist Church, you have made sure that my path crosses with yours. You have helped me develop my faith and understand the bigger meaning of life. We all help each other learns that God wants us to live in hope and have faith in the future. If I ever get lost along life’s road, I know I can come back here and find the way again. Having a home at Sarah Jane gives me the hope that I can venture out and fulfill God’s plans for me.
One of my favorite parables is about the mustard seed from Matthew 13:31 - 32. In fact, my grandmother has a mustard seed necklace that she wears to church sometimes. Mustard seeds are really tiny! The parable states, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” When I read this I think of how the Kingdom of Heaven lays within us. We are small in comparison to many things, but still we have much potential to grow like the mustard tree. Each one of us has the ability to grow way beyond what we thought we could grow spiritually and conceptually. Like the mustard tree supports the birds, we will become the support for a community. I am still just germinating mustard seed. But, with the Kingdom of Heaven growing in my heart, I can branch out with unlimited potential.
I would like to say thank you to my church community for giving me the support it will take to continue growing.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.