Erika Larsen's Sermon June 7, 2015

                 For the past week, I have been helping the music teacher at Belle View Elementary School through the SHOUT program at West Potomac. SHOUT gives seniors the opportunity to get involved in the community and do service after taking all of our finals. I have worked with students of all ages and abilities, ranging from kindergarteners to 6th graders. In some classes, we have been teaching the students simple rhythms and have just been singing songs, but in more advanced classes, I’ve gotten to help teach the kids how to play recorders and even guitars. As a graduate from Belle View, this has been a fantastic opportunity to revisit previous teachers and remind myself of how easy life was when I was 6 years old. It has also allowed me to understand how our minds work as we age and how we make decisions.

When I was younger, my family and I only went to church on Easter and Christmas, but when I asked my parents what we believed, we talked about God and that I should learn for myself. My parents brought me to Sunday school every Sunday starting in 7th grade and I began to discover what I believe and how my relationship with God factors into that. Watching the elementary schoolers now and relating to how I was at that age, I’ve realized that we don’t think much before we act. I’ve seen 1st graders push one of their friends down or call each other a bad name, and then you see their faces change from enjoyment to fear and then remorse as they are punished and realize what they’ve done. At that age, we often don’t understand the consequences of our actions.

In 3rd grade, I had a teacher with extremely thick and curly red hair; this was also the year of the cicadas. My friends and I thought it would be a good idea to hang a bunch of the dead carcasses in her hair. Thinking back now, I realize that it probably wasn’t the best or most thoughtful idea, since she  didn’t like bugs much. Working with the children’s choir here at St. Luke’s, I have also seen how thought processes change over time. The short-attention-spanned musicians have so much potential and ability that shows through, but staying focused is always an issue. Goofing off during rehearsal takes away from practice time. As I am now going into music, I see that that decision has serious consequences; I have done the same thing during my rehearsals with the band or orchestra. When I don’t pay close enough attention during those rehearsals, I lose valuable information that I could’ve taken in, and that sometimes shows through during performances. These small actions have major consequences.

As my relationship with God developed, I began to think about my actions and the consequences before doing them; things as simple as speaking in everyday conversations to more complicated things such as where I wanted to go to college or what I wanted to do with my life. This has allowed me to really consider who is affected by my choices because these choices determine who I am as a person. This has also helped me see right versus wrong. Taking time to make decisions makes the implementation more rational and often less foolish.

God encourages us to think right, but also gives us free will which allows us to learn from our mistakes. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks to a crowd and they accuse him, but Jesus claims that their accusations aren’t logical. Jesus reminds us in the Old Testament of God’s ways which helps us to think clearly and know that God will never leave us or withdraw his support and he accentuates the importance of doing what is right.

After going through the youth program at St. Luke’s and traveling to Germany for our pilgrimage, I still don’t know exactly what I believe, but that can only come with time and experience. As I continue to explore the person I am and the person I want to be, I turn to God for help and direction and I have full faith that he will guide me in the way I am determined to go.