Youth Sunday Sermon from Lily Wilkerson
February 3, 2019
My name is Lily Wilkerson, I have been a member of the youth group since middle school and a member of the church since even earlier in my life. This year I decided to take the leap and raise my hand when Lee Gray, the Youth’s fearless leader, asked: “Who would be willing to give one of the sermons this Youth Sunday?”. So here I am, standing before all your beautiful faces, about to attempt preaching to the masses. Today I will be talking about not only my own
relationship with the Lord but also one of my greatest role models, the best teacher I’ve ever had, and my best friend: my mother, as well as her truly inspirational journey with Christ and her faith, and how it has taught me about the way I now walk with God in my daily life.
Sondra Hellund: some you know her as a friend, a peer, or even a stranger. I doubt anyone knows her as a stranger though because Sondra has no fear when it comes to introducing herself and getting to know others. Every day I experience her meeting someone and get to know them in a way that truly reflects the characteristics of the Lord. Psalm 137:4 says “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Well, my mother always knew how to exemplify traits of God, no matter what land in which she resided.
An example of the traits my mom possesses is the time she went to the Salvation Army on Central Avenue to donate some old clothes, and she when got to the donation area, the employee looked as though he was having a hard day. So, of course, my mother asks “How are you doing today?” And not in the obligatory, polite way that is expected of good, decent people, my mom always means it when she asks, because she really wants to know how you are actually doing. This man could see this quality in my mother and he decided to open up to her. He responds, “Not well. I am in rehabilitation here at the Salvation Army shelter and while I am getting sober and healthy again, I can no longer see my children or my wife, and I am really struggling.” Sondra had the perfect reply to this man’s dilemma. She shared her own story with him, this perfect stranger, the story of her battle with addiction, with rehabilitation, and with sobriety.
In 2014, my mother with the help and guidance of the Lord made the decision to go to rehabilitation for 6 weeks and get sober. Through those
6 weeks, not only did Sondra get sober, she reconnected with God and created a deep relationship with him that I aspire to one day possess. In the thick of my mother’s struggle with addiction, she believed that “God was only for the good people”, and she lived without the Lord’s influence, ashamed and guilty. But through her sobriety, my mom realized, “God was for everyone, scars and all”. She told the man this story, and at first, he did not believe her. He said “You? An alcoholic? Never.” But she confirmed that she was, in fact, an alcoholic, sober for 4 and a half years, 5 years this August. She told him “We may not all look the same, but we all struggle with the same demons”. When the man heard this phrase, often spoken about in AA meetings, he broke down and began to cry, and my mom just held him in her arms in the middle of a Salvation Army parking lot, telling him that “God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves”.
I want to mention a verse I found, Isaiah 40:31 says “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” This verse about redemption through a relationship with the Lord reflects my mother’s faith because of the renewal of her relationship with Christ through her sobriety, and my mother now walks freely and loves deeply, because she understands that despite her shortcomings, God will always love her and never forsake her, so long as she loves and trusts Him in the same way. This taught me a great deal about how to love God in my daily life, and I am eternally grateful to her for teaching me that valuable lesson.
Now, my relationship with God has been quite a journey throughout my childhood. I had the Bible Coloring Books with Noah and his Ark, Jonah and the Whale, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and of course Jesus with the Children. I read my picture book Bible cover to cover hundreds of times, and I nearly fainted
from excitement when I was gifted with my First Adventure Bible from Martha in the 5th grade. Back then, God to me was just a guy with a white flowy beard and Birkenstocks who made sure I had a roof over my head and food on my plate. I didn’t truly understand who God was back then, but now I believe I have begun to understand God and the way he works in my life a little better.
When I was 12 years old, my mom sat me down and informed me that she was an alcoholic and that she needed to leave for a while and get sober, so that she could be healthy and be a better mother to me and Jack. I didn’t understand. This didn’t happen to little girls who loved their mother and father. This was not supposed to happen to people like me.
My faith was shaken to say least, and I forgot everything I thought I knew about God and the way he worked in people’s lives. I unknowingly shared my mom’s belief that “God was only for good people” and that meant I must have been a bad person. I would kick and scream getting into the car to go see my mom, knowing that it would just be a glaring reminder of what terrible daughter I was, who caused my mother to be an alcoholic. When my mom finally came home to me for good, I confessed to her my worries and apologized for what I thought, I had done, and she told me that of course, it was not my fault, that all was good, and that God was real and constantly working in our lives for the better. I not only realized the role that God had played in my life but how my friends and family affected me spiritually as well. Without the support of my grandparents, who both are active members in Al-Anon as well as me and mother’s biggest fans, I don’t think I would be in this church here today. Marty and Jim Stenhouse are both so in touch with their faiths and it shines in them, and now shines in me. Thank you, for being there for me and my brother and teaching me how to trust and how to cherish. Without them and my father, my brother, family friends, and even members of this congregation, I would not be in this pulpit, preaching about my faith in the Lord.
Deuteronomy 10:21 says, “He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” I believe this verse to be a constant reminder of what the Lord did for my mom and me, and in turn for our relationships with Him. I’m not a big believer in miracles, but I am a big believer in the Lord, so I have to believe that by calling my mother back to Him, and as result reuniting Himself with me, God performed a miracle almost 5 years ago, and for that I thank Him every day, and now I thank all of you for listening, and I want to leave you with my favorite bible verse of all time, a verse that I live my everyday life by, Romans 8:18, that says “ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”