The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
MIQRA weekend

Taryn Northcutt and Alayne Weber, Youth MIQRA participants
Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11

Hello I am Taryn Northcutt and I, like most teenagers, have disobeyed my parents. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a rebel but if I have to do something I don’t like I will rebel against my parents’ rules. My parents would say I tend to do things my way, which is sometimes true. In this morning’s first reading, Isaiah tells us, “for the Lord has spoken that he has reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled.” Sound familiar?

Now, I understand that teenagers make mistakes and give into peer pressure, but no matter what, as parents, you all have loved us unconditionally. I admit when I get in trouble for a mistake I made, I get angry at my parents, but I know that even if I make mistakes after mistakes, I know they still love me. In Psalm 36 it says the Lord “reaches to the heavens . . . O Lord, how priceless is your [unfailing] love. Yes love is priceless and every teen and kid wants to be loved by their parents, but what they might not realize is not only does God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ love them unconditionally, but so do their parents.

We all fall short of God’s commandments but even if we don’t reach them we know God forgives us and loves us no matter what we do. I know my parents love me and they have supported me throughout my whole childhood and still, to this day, they have supported me in every activity I get involved in. Without them I wouldn’t be at these amazing events such as Miqra.

Now, for those who do not know what Miqra stands for, it means “that which is read.” The word Miqra is a Hebrew word that originates from the Hebrew word Tanakh. What we do here is read the bible from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament within four days. I have grown in my faith from this event from the first time I attended to now, my last time as a participant.

And with each year of attending Miqra I have learned something new. I have gotten to meet amazing, talented people at this event, and I will always cherish every moment I’ve had with this diocese and the opportunities they have given to young teenagers in ways of leadership.

I have grown as a leader and a person, and a leader and person I looked up to even though he is in Chicago now, I still consider a great example. Chad Senuta was the first leader I met at this event – my first event ever. He would always welcome everyone with a smile and throughout the years he would invite people to either sing in the band, or help with the readings, and he would never discourage anyone. And even though Chad is no longer here, all the adults that are here have volunteered their time with us this weekend have given us the same welcoming vibe.

One thing I love about this church is that we have such a loving community and such a great fellowship. A Bible verse from the Second Letter of John pretty much sums up this whole weekend for me: “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.”

All these participants have learned the truth of the Bible and God’s work and the Son’s work. They have been reading or listening to excerpts from the Bible and participating in the activities and worship services. But I know everyone has learned a lot this weekend. Thank you for allowing us to meet together in this place, and thank you for your support of our diocesan youth events. They help us all to reach out and grow in Christ.

From Alayne Weber
If I asked you— right now, in this moment— what one word makes you think of God and your relationship with God, what would it be? What’s the first word that comes to your mind? Is it “love,” or “forgiveness,” or “trust?” Or do you think of Jesus and His connection with God?

Do you want to know what word comes to mind when I think of God’s love? “Unconditional.” Now, when I say that word, some of you who have been with me at MIQRA this weekend may automatically think of that song we sing, at almost every youth event, that expresses the idea of receiving love with no limits and no reasoning, just because you can love — and giving that love in return. Sure enough, that song is titled “Unconditional Love.”

Now, in the readings today it is said that God’s “steadfast love extends to the heavens.” So, not only is it unconditional, but also unlimited and unfailing. It will never cease to exist; it will always remain with you as long as you keep your faith in him. It also says that “in his light, we see light.” Wherever we go, whatever we do, when we think of God, we should think of not only his unconditional love, but also of the light he shines upon us. As long as God is with us, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel. When you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, he will be there to show you the way to a solution or a better place.

So, how do we know that God is with us? We can’t see Him, so how can we be sure He’s there? Well, I know God is there for me— not because I’ve seen Him, not because I’ve heard Him, but because I’ve felt Him.

When I was nine years old, I had a pet rat. Now, some of you might laugh or gasp or cringe, but her name was Henry. Yes, I said her— I didn’t realize she was a girl when I named her. She was the sweetest little fur-ball I had ever seen. When I was in fifth grade, she passed away.

Now, I’m sure many of you have experienced the loss of a loved one at a young age like me, whether it was a pet, a family member, or a close friend. She was my best friend, and I lost her when I was only ten. I still clearly remember that day, hearing the news from my mom after coming home from school, and sitting on the staircase crying for I-don’t-know-how-many hours. And in that time I spent crying, I felt God put his arms around me. I could have sworn I felt an invisible weight on my shoulders, as if someone was comforting me with a hug. I could almost hear Him whispering “It’s alright, I’m here.”

Years ago, I didn’t have very much faith in God, or in anything for that matter. That was before I went to my first youth event in sixth grade. And as I continued going to youth events, I realized that not only was I having the time of my life, but I was also surrounded by many of God’s other followers, who all believed in His unconditional love, and took time to spread that love.

You know, I’m honestly amazed by how hard it is for some teenagers my age to find that unconditional love— even if they spend their entire lives searching for it. I just wish that it would be that easy, to simply go up to one of them and say, “Come to the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas’ Youth Ministry, for there you will find the love you have been searching for.” Of course, if I said it like that, they might react the same way the lonely shepherds did when the angel Gabriel came to them in the Nativity story: cower in fear and convince themselves I was just another crazy person.

So, what do you do for someone when they struggle with finding God’s love? Do you pray for them? It seems that for those who can’t find it, or won’t, you simply just give them that unconditional love, even if they don’t return it. Because, one simple gesture of kindness— one simple act of love – can change a person’s life. And a changed life can change another person’s life on and on. That’s what God’s amazing unconditional love can do. And through his light – God’s light – we see light. And love. Amen.