Youth Sunday Sermon by Jessica Thorne

Good morning.

When I was going into high school people told me that I should play a fall sport to make friends. I decided to try out for the field hockey team since I had played in middle school. I made the junior varsity team and was ready to start my first year at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. The transition from middle to high school was fairly smooth, but field hockey was hard and time consuming. It was hard to keep up in the running drills and the goalie skill drills. When the season ended I didn’t really know what to do. I did not really know any of the other girls very well, and I know longer had an activity to occupy my afternoons. By the time field hockey had ended I did not regret it, but it was too late to join most other after school activities, especially when I did not make the basketball team, which was the only other sport I played. For a while I drifted between friend groups until I made my way back to the group with my best friend from elementary school and some of her new theater friends. We ate lunch under the high end stairwell and I slowly began to feel comfortable with everyone in the group. When sophomore year began I told the coach that I was not going to play field hockey that year and auditioned for the fall play, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Through the rehearsal process I met so many people from every grade and made so many close friends that I still have today. I did not get into the spring musical that year, but I was able to strengthen my stairwell friendships as well as some of the ones from the show.

Junior year things really picked up. I helped with lighting and props for both the spring and fall shows as well as performed in my first musical that spring, Spamalot. That year I also continued my involvement in the Shakespeare Club, which I had joined the year before. With every day that passed I strengthened my friendships with everyone who was involved in the show as well as some new friends who had joined our stairwell crew. This year I was in the fall show, Hamlet, and the spring musical, Sweet Charity. Again, I worked on lighting and props for both shows. In the past few months I have adapted, written, cast, and directed a one act play for my school’s One Acts Festival. It was an adaptation of The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe in which I included Poe himself as a character. This experience was so meaningful and moving that I would not change it for the world, and has brought me to consider a minor in arts management. That is not what I thought I would end up doing when I stepped into the field hockey goalie suit at the beginning of my freshman year, and who knows what new avenues God will open for me in the future.

In the Psalm read this morning, it tells us “You [God] changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up I joy.” Another vision states “You [God] changed wild lament into whirling dance; you ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers.” This scripture tells us that God brings us fresh new options when we need it whether we know it or not. He makes it easier to have fun in something that is accessible to us that we did not even know existed. He makes it easier to move out of a rut and bring us into a better state of mind and action where we can embrace and accept new opportunities.

Until I visited the University of Mary Washington about a year ago, I had always planned on going to William and Mary. The more I visited Mary Washington, the more I fell in love and felt as if that is where I belonged. It is not what I planned, but when I accepted their offer of admission I felt more relaxed than I had in a long time. God brought Mary Washington into my life slowly, through friends, counselors, and parents of friends, and I am so glad that he did. I am sure all of us have had this experience of joy brought from an unexpected source, whether it be a friend or a stranger, a random flyer or advertisement that catches your eye, or a random story or class that reaches your ear. For me it was the transition from sports to theater and from one college to another. For some it may be the transition from one job to another, or a class they happened to take in college. For others it may be a new love interest or friend, or maybe a new member to the family or a new colleague at work.

One way to start a new dance is to volunteer somewhere new. When I started working with the Sewing Circle [Circulo de Costura] at CrossOver Clinic two summers ago, I did not know what to expect. Now I cannot imagine my life without it. It is my favorite part of the week when it is in session. I get to practice my Spanish outside of class, and I have gotten to know other church members as well as the ladies who attend so well and they are all very important parts of my life now, even if I do end up spending some time on the floor plugging in and unplugging the sewing machines.

Good people and opportunities can be found in the most unexpected places, but when God brings them to your notice in school, work, family, or volunteer services, they can bring joy, dance, and so much more into your life. Try one activity, job, friend group, school choice, or summer plan. If it does not work, go back and try something new that caught your eye a couple days or months ago. It may change your life for the better. I want us all to look for the small opportunities: a person asking for your help, a new volunteer opportunity or unexpected job offer. God will work through them to help make your life feel renewed and more enjoyable. Accept this help, just as you offer your aid to others. If we can accept these dances and wildflowers we can bring new light into our own lives as well as into the lives of those we meet along the way.