The energy filled the air.
Some nerves too.
A group of high schoolers and leaders were packing the vans to leave for a week-long gathering. Many churches take part in service trips, camps, gatherings, and other ways to engage in faith formation through the summer. For our denomination, ELCA, every three years a big youth gathering takes place. Big as in 31,000 people descending on one city for a week.
I saw the group off and chatted with them about what they were expecting.
What they were hoping to experience.
I remembered the many trips I’d been on throughout the years.
And I remembered the same mix of nerves and excitement.
Different experiences, people, and trips, but the same wave of emotions and feelings.
The same God calling us to venture beyond our comfort zones.
As they pulled out with honking and cheers, as my children waved to them, I couldn’t help but lift up a prayer.
Prayers for them and their experiences, but also prayers for all those who embark on adventures this summer to deepen their faith.
Prayers for the leaders who take time from work to model faithful living.
Prayers for leaders who listen and love and serve without judgement.
Prayers for leaders who drink lots of caffeine, wear crazy clothes, and seek out those who are sad.
Prayers for leaders who ask hard questions.
Prayers for leaders who see everyone they meet as beloved children of God.
Prayers for the youth who are willing to experience something new.
Prayers for the youth who make new friends.
Prayers for the youth who hear uncomfortable stories and listen with open hearts.
Prayers for the youth who are yearning for a place to fit in.
Prayers for the youth who are on fire to share God’s love.
Prayers for the youth to know that they are beloved children of God.
Prayers for the people they meet.
Prayers for new friendships and new stories.
Prayers for seeing strangers as friends.
Prayers for seeing the pain and hurt of others as our pain and hurt.
Prayers for justice and peace for those living on the margins.
Prayers for looking into the eyes of someone different from us and seeing them as beloved children of God.
And finally, thanks to God who in Jesus gave us a model for faithful, selfless, compassionate love and service.
Thanks to God who welcomes without questions.
Thanks to God who sits in the silence and dances in the joy.
Thanks to God who hears the prayers we offer with shouts and the prayers we offer with tears.
Thanks to God who loves the sleep-deprived leader, the high-schooler looking for a place to fit in, and the stranger on the street.
Thanks to God for never ending grace and mercy and hope.
Thanks be to God.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/