Good Morning Everybody! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Daniel Hancock, and I am a senior here at St. Andrew’s. I have been going to this church my whole life. I was baptized right there by that guy. I was also confirmed right here. I spent a week out of every summer coming to Vacation Bible School. I even wore the Hot Dog costume, which was way too big for me, in front of the St. Andrew’s Weenie Wagon at the Fair on the Square. As I grew older, I joined the youth group here and I have so many stories and memories with that amazing group of people, that I could never pick one to talk about today. As a sophomore in high school, I attended a youth retreat called Happening that changed my life. Shortly after going through, I applied for Happening staff and three years later, I have been a part of six different Happenings, changing the lives of over 100 high schoolers who went through like I did. I look back and I remember when I was 5 years old and I was singing in the children’s choir and I would stand right here and instead of focusing on the singing I would just swing from the bannisters while just kind of mumbling the words and I would look up and see my Mom shooting me that Mom look that means “Stop it! Sit still.” I probably ignored that look. But when I think back at all those little moment growing up here, I never thought I’d be here today, standing in front of this congregation, and giving this sermon. I am so thankful that I took part in so many things here at this church because in doing so, I have learned so much about God and Jesus, but what I only realized recently was my newfound understanding of what the Holy Spirit is.
Growing up I knew who God and Jesus were. I learned every Sunday morning in Sunday School while trying to beat the record for how many doughnuts I could eat before it was time to leave. (My record is 8) However, the one thing I never understood was the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know what it was. I had no idea. And I never asked about it because none of the other kids asked about it. I figured they already knew and I just missed that lesson. So, growing up, I was kind of fuzzy about what the Holy Spirit was, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized not only what it was, but that it has been all around me my entire life.
Over the years, I have been involved in numerous programs and trips that are designed to promote service, a sense of community, and most importantly, a closer relationship with God. I have gone on six mission trips with our youth group here and on those trips I have had some of the most amazing experiences while strengthening relationships with people I already knew and starting new relationships with folks I met there. And on those trips, while at camp we would have morning and evening program. At the programs we would sing, and play games, and worship God. My favorite part was the singing, even though I cannot carry a tune to save my life. But what I loved about it was standing in that high school gym with 500 other people, and all of us singing as loud as we could and just praising our amazing God. Thinking about that moment and what I felt in that gym still gives me goosebumps to this day.
I have also been fortunate enough to have gotten involved in a group at school called Young Life. Now, Young Life works with teens to help them strengthen their relationship with God. With young life, I went on trips to young life camps where we have lots of fun and learn even more about strengthening our faith. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to go to Crooked Creek Ranch in Fraser, Colorado. It was here that I had an experience that allowed me to understand the Holy Spirt like I never had before. The last night we were there, in middle of the Colorado Rockies, they sent us out to find somewhere to sit on the ground, just around camp, and they told us to listen and talk to God. What they didn’t tell us is that they were going to turn off every light in camp. You would think it would be so dark you couldn’t see anything, but there were so many stars and moon above us was so full and bright, it felt like daytime. So, I went and sat on a little cliff that looked out over a valley with the mountains on the other side. And I did as I was told and listened. For those thirty minutes that I sat there. I heard God and really felt the Holy Spirit in me and all around camp that night. I got chills and was even brought to tears and could not believe the love I felt in that moment.
Earlier, I mentioned my involvement with Happening. Something we talk about at Happening is what we call a Mountaintop Experience. A mountaintop experience can be described as a heightened feeling of being closer to God. The Holy spirit fills you up and lives through you while on the mountaintop. Now, I had a literal mountain top experience in Colorado, but you don’t have to go climb a mountain to experience it. A Mountaintop can be anywhere at any time. I have felt it in high school gyms on our mission trips, actually on a mountain at young life camp, and even in this very church, where I went through my first Happening.
In Romans 15:13 it reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Living life through the holy spirit, while worshipping God and spreading His word is by far the best life to live. You become kinder, gain more patience, and this life is rewarding beyond belief.
However, you can’t stay on the mountaintop forever. The air is thin and there isn’t enough food and water, making it impossible to stay for long periods of time. The climb back down can be hard, really hard. Losing that feeling is something that is not easy to cope with. What I have figured out though is that you take what you learned on the mountain top and apply it to your life back here in the real world. Living life piously and showing complete faith in God can be so hard in today’s world. The key to really being yourself and living the Christ-centered life you have always wanted to live is to surround yourself with a community of people who love and support you no matter who are you and what you have done. My recommendation for where to find this community. A Church.