Max GoetzEcclesiastes 3.1-14, Youth Sunday
I like to resist change. I like to get things right the first time. I hate to change my routine. I don’t even like the changing weather and I don’t like to change my mind.
Yet, the bible verse we are reading together is all about change, one of the things I dislike the most. Ecclesiastes 3 discusses how there is a time for everything, or, as I interpret it, the inevitability of change.
Recently, this verse has hit home with me as I finish up my senior year. Only a week or two ago, I played my last high school tennis match with my best friend, a day I never thought would come a few years ago. In a month or so, I will graduate high school. This summer, I am starting a new job, and soon, I will be leaving home and everything I’ve ever known. And yet, just like this verse says, it’s time for these changes to take place no matter how much I resist.
In the past, my resistance for change was even more profound. To me, there was never a good time to change my view of the world. One of these views included my stance on religion.
Religion has never been easy for me to understand. When I was younger, I saw it as an excuse for hate and violence. I could see how people would pick and choose lines from the bible and other religious texts to justify their racism, sexism, and homophobia, among other things.
The concept of an almighty God was even more foreign to me. I did not understand how one being could be responsible for creating so much. In addition, many religions tend to claim their God is a loving and forgiving God, yet the world we live in is often just the opposite. And, ultimately, the concept that was completely beyond me is how a gracious God would send his own people to Hell.
These thoughts are what made me reluctant to go to College Park’s youth group when my sister, Sidney, invited me 4 years ago.
Sidney is a very outgoing and social person. She was never big on religion before College Park, but she definitely had an easier time with it than I did. After going to College Park for a little while, she decided to join the Youth Group. A few months later, she tried to get me to join, but unlike Sidney, I am not a super social or outgoing person. This, combined with my skepticism about religion, made me hate the idea of giving up my Sunday nights to insert myself into an uncomfortable situation. Unfortunately, my dad is very big on me getting out of the house to do things, so my sister teamed up with him, and they dragged me to youth one night.
It wasn’t quite the “feel good” beginning you might be hoping for or expecting. I didn’t immediately see the error of my own skepticism, and, to be honest, I did not enjoy youth at first. But I started to make friends and thanks to a few of the older guys, – D.J., Drew, and Jack – I started to feel a bit more comfortable. It was a practice in letting go, of allowing somethings to end – and like Ecclesiastes says, as I began to let go of what I thought about religion, a new journey through religion began to unfold.
I made more friends who became good friends, enjoyed the games we played together, and loved the trips. I continued to come, but did not think deeply about what youth meant to me.
Before I realized it, we were having our senior circle for the Tarboro mission trip. This was the last time my sister and I would have a youth event together, but it was also the first time I realized how wrong I was for resisting the changes youth group would bring. I was incredibly thankful for my sister getting me involved in youth and realized how much of a role youth played in my life. I had not yet changed my original perceptions of religion, but had a feeling this would be the beginning of that.
Youth started back up in the fall, but then came COVID. I expected to stay on top of my studies and relatively busy with homework. While I did keep up with my school work, I was anything but busy, and often stayed up very late playing video games with my friends. In the summer I stayed occupied working, but as it came to an end, and school started back up online, I found myself with lots of free time.
I spent much of this time thinking about things that I enjoyed and searching for new ways to create meaning within my life. As I reflected on my time at College Park, I finally realized there was room for my perceptions of religion to change. On the surface level, College Park provided me with a fun way to spend my Sunday evenings, along with enjoyable trips. On a deeper level, College Park provided me with ways to give back to my community and learn about people who have it harder than I do. And yet, none of these lessons compare to the true value College Park has had in my life. Alongside scouting, College Park has helped shape the person I am today. I learned the values of service, acceptance, compassion, and responsibility. Along with this personal growth, I also gained a support group and outlet for stress, along with lifelong friends.
Realizing the effects College Park has had on me allowed me to put a new importance on religion. The College Park style of worship has opened my mind to what religion and my own personal faith can and should be. The many who love and support through faith showed me that while there always will be those who use religion for hate, they are too small of a group to represent religion as a whole.
Like Ecclesiastes 3 says, there is always a time for change. Change is inevitable, no matter how hard you try to resist. It was high time for my perspective on religion to change, and I’m grateful that it finally did.
As I look forward to the future, I will bring the lessons that I’ve learned from College Park with me. I will remember the effect that changing my perspective can have on my life, and I will try my best to give things and people the benefit of the doubt, something I wish I’d done a little earlier in my time at College Park.