Junior High Youth Sunday
Meditations on the qualities in Love
Wake Up to Love
How great it would be to wake up in the morning, decide how we wanted to treat people, and then put on a piece of clothing that would make it all happen. That seems to be what Chris might be hoping.
Putting on clothes to demonstrate how we are going to act is not a new idea. In the days of the early church when someone was baptized, they took off their old clothes and put on new white clothes. The new clothes showed everyone that this person was a new person because of their baptism. The newly baptized person was now a follower of Jesus Christ. And as a new person, they were to act in ways that were different from the rest of the world.
When Paul talks about clothing yourself with certain virtues, he is thinking about those new clothes a new Christian would wear. Our puppet is on Paul’s wavelength. Put on Love—a shirt or sweatshirt. Put on Love so that everyone can clearly see that you are going to love others. Put on love so that every time you look down you are reminded that you are a new person because you follow Jesus. Today we junior highs and advisors are going to put on love. Our shirts let you know we are going to do our best to love others as Jesus loves us.
These shirts are made by people in Honduras. They take many different pieces of cloth and stitch them together to make the shirt. Love is also made of many pieces. The scripture jam listed some of them for you. The pieces of Compassion. Kindness. Humility, Gentleness, Patience. Forgiveness. Love is made of all of these pieces. If we are missing just one piece, we have an incomplete shirt of love.
So today we are going to take a close look at all these pieces of love so that we can all put on a completely bound together shirt of love.
Now that Chris has woken up, the puppets are going to tell us about the first piece of a shirt of Love.
Kindness and compassion
Chris was really nice to the new kid. He was kind. He was aware that the new kid didn’t have any one to sit with at lunch. Chris also showed compassion. Compassion is a big word that means we really understand how the other person is feeling. Maybe Chris was the new kid one time and remembered how lonely it can feel. Maybe he noticed the sad look on the new kid’s face and remembered a time when he felt sad. One really important piece of a shirt of love is made of kindness and compassion.
How many of you have every felt hungry? So when I tell you that there are children in some parts of our country and our world who are hungry all the time, you can have compassion. You can really understand what it might be like for them to be hungry most of the time. And when you collect the two cent offering to help buy food for those children you are showing kindness. You already have an important piece of Love.
In our puppet skit, Chris had what we call patience. He could remain calm when the school bus driver wasn’t getting to the bus stop fast enough. Patience means that we will not get angry when people don’t do things as fast or as well as we would like. Patience means when our mother or father or grandparent says we must wait for their attention, we wait calmly and quietly. Patience means that when we are waiting for our turn for lunch or a special toy or to be the leader, we do it with a smile on our face.
Paul lists humility and gentleness as two of the pieces that make the garment of love. Humility is a difficult concept to live. Humility is knowing that we are not better than others. In the skit Cindy knew that she was not really better than the others. She knew that all three of them were good sales people. Cindy knew that any one of them could have made the sale if they had received the first phone call. Sometimes we think humility is denying that we are good at anything, but that is not right. Humility is not putting ourselves down. Humility is seeing ourselves accurately. Humility means we have healthy sense of who we are and how valuable we are as one of God’s children.
Gentleness is being willing to give up our rights rather than seeking personal gain in a relationship. It is being strong enough to give up our own desires for the good of another. Strong enough to show consideration of another’s needs and desires. Humility and gentleness are crucial pieces in the garment of love. If we think we are better than others, our love is full of condescension. If we think we are far less capable than we are, our love is not genuine, but is motivated by need. When we are not gentle and focus only on having our own needs met by others, love becomes demanding and intent on getting as much as we can from another. We must accurately know who we are and what our strengths are in order to love others as Jesus loves us
As I watched the boys do this skit, I realized that in order to forgive we need to have many of the qualities we have illustrated here this morning. When Austin forgave AJ it was with humility. “We all make mistakes,” he told AJ. Austin recognized that he is not perfect. The scripture jam echoed the words of Paul in Colossians: “Forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” In order to forgive, we must admit that we are fallible human beings just like everyone else. Forgiving others requires enough humility to recognize that we have not always measured up to God’s desires for us. Forgiveness requires enough humility to see that all of us humans are in need of forgiveness from God and from each other.
Forgiveness requires kindness and compassion. We extend compassion to another when we forgive and work to restore the relationship. As you saw, Austin offered to help AJ make it right. Austin right away built a bridge to reconciliation by extending kindness and offering to help AJ with his paper.
When we forgive another we are also showing kindness to ourselves. Carrying around anger and resentment harms us far, far more than it hurts the person who has offended us. So making a decision to no longer let our hurt and anger control us and occupy time and energy in our lives, is a kindness we give to ourselves. It is a way of demonstrating that we are worthy of joy and peace. Extending forgiveness to others is a way to love others and a way to also love ourselves.
Putting on Love
Our shirt is now complete. All the pieces, kindness, compassion, patience, humility, gentleness, forgiveness are bound together making a shirt of love.
Oh, if only it would be as easy as that—putting on a shirt of love each day. Loving the way Jesus taught us to love is hard. The shirt of love doesn’t’ always fit really well. Our selfishness gets in the way, catching our head in the neck of kindness. And we find it hard to be kind and compassionate and love. Our pride overwhelms us, puffing us up so that the shirt of love no longer even fits. And we find it hard to love. We are in a rush, hurriedly pushing our arm into the sleeve of patience. We are so rushed that we don’t even have time to put the shirt on properly. We find it hard to be patient and love. Resentment and anger make us so stiff we can’t move our arms to pull the shirt over our heads. We can’t put on the shirt of love because we are consumed with anger. And we are not able to forgive and love.
Paul offers us some wardrobe advice. Paul tells us to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Paul asks us to let go of our pride and our impatience and our anger and let the peace of Christ fill that space. Chris and his family have a hint for us. Each morning, think about putting on love when we get dressed. Each morning when we eat breakfast think about filling ourselves with the love of Christ. The junior highs have something that may help you remember to put on love and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. They have a sticker that you can put on your shirt to remind you to fill yourself with the peace of Christ. As this next song, Testify to Love plays, our youth will make sure that each of you receives a sticker. Our prayer is that this visual symbol will help us all remember to put on love and allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. For Chris and his family got it right—if we all put on love each day, our days will be brighter and full of life and peace and our world be a more joyful place.