12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[d] any longer, because the servant[e] does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another
I don’t know what I was expecting when I piled into the van at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church the summer after my junior year of high school to head away for the first time for 5 days at a summer youth conference. I guess I was expecting to have fun with the other members of our High School Youth Group. I loved our Sunday School classes and weekly fellowship meetings. These people were my friends. What I found during that week away was Christian community, as these people became my family in faith. Morning keynotes and evening worship helped me think deeply about God. Small group discussions, shared meals, and lots of recreation enhanced the week. I had grown up knowing that God was real. During this week, God was really present in ways that I felt daily.
Later this month, our church’s youth will be heading to The Great Escape (a Middle School conference outside Ocala) and Montreat (a Senior High conference in North Carolina.) I pray that each person on these trips will feel God’s presence in Christian community. Wonderfully, it seems to happen every summer.
God, bless our youth as they pack up and head out for two incredible summer experiences. And bless the adults of our church and these camps as they help to model Christian community for all who attend. Let Your love so permeate The Great Escape and Montreat, that all who assemble will radiate Your grace and goodness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.