The Third Sunday after Pentecost — Youth Sunday: June 10, 2018
Ben MacLeod and Grey Moszkowski, Youth Preachers
Grey Moszkowski: Senior Sermon
It’s a bit strange for me to be up here. It’s strange because when I think of a sermon, I think of an instructional address, a fresh take on an old verse, or some piece of wisdom as it relates to faith, and I don’t know if I have any of that. It’s strange because I don’t feel qualified to be up here. It’s strange because I spent most Sundays between three and fourteen in these pews, listening to older, more experienced, and presumably more assured people give their thoughts. To be honest, I rarely understood. I just sat back and enjoyed the sonorous power of voice, echoing off the stone walls. I would look up at the stained glass, admiring the light streaming through from the morning sun, illuminating the Archangel and the dragon before reaching my eyes. In those moments, life became purely sensory. I didn’t over-intellectualize, worry, or furrow my eyebrows in confusion. No, I was there, and calm, and nothing else seemed to matter. These moments of peace should be treasured. They remind us that there are larger forces at play than our troubles, our concerns, our very lives. It’s a humbling and freeing realization.
A few weeks ago, I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. I visited with my history class, and went through most of the exhibit with friends and classmates by my side. But at the end of the exhibit, there was a hall of remembrance for those killed in the Holocaust. Here, I peeled off from the group.
In the hall, an eternal flame burned on a pedestal filled with soil from concentration camps. The names of the ghettos, camps, and sites of massacres were written on the walls, and, under them, candles that could be lit to remember a lost loved one. Old Testament quotes were written on the walls; the one that stuck with me was from Genesis, from the story of Cain and Abel. “What have you done? Hark, your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”
I stood in the center of the hall for a while, moved by the symbolism, the quotes, the flame. Eventually, I decided to light a candle for the family I never met who died in the Holocaust. I turned to the candles, only to realize that I didn’t know which one to light. They were organized by place: candles for Auschwitz-Birkenau victims here, Warsaw and Vilna ghetto victims there, et cetera. In that moment, I realized that I don’t know what exactly happened to my family.
I didn’t end up lighting a candle. Instead, I sat in that beautiful, devastating room for about fifteen or twenty minutes. I wasn’t thinking about anything, wasn’t worrying about anything, wasn’t even feeling anything, really. I was just being, surrounded by a reminder that my own life, my own troubles, are outweighed by something else – in this case, by the love, remembrance, and sense of responsibility that drove people to build this place, and that drove me and my classmates to visit it. I knew that such powers exist; how could I deny them? I was sitting in a place whose very genesis was rooted in them.
So, here I am. Just eighteen years of age. Still trying to figure out my own positions on organized religion, faith, et cetera. To be perfectly honest, still trying to figure out if I believe in an entity called God. I’m not sure if I’ll ever completely answer these questions. But I know that there are things, powers, forces, that are greater than me. There is remembrance, there is responsibility, there is love for people, just because they’re people. I know these things exist, even if I can’t always access them, and they bring me comfort through my darkest thoughts and most trying times. They are a beautiful affirmation that life is more than random encounters, lawless action, and chaotic existence. There is some purpose to who we are and what we do, and that, to me, is divine.