This past weekend, Imago Dei Youth Ministry ventured to Ocean City, NJ for our annual retreat at the beach. Middle School and High School youth, along with incredible adult leaders, crammed into the Ocean City Tabernacle and worshipped together, prepared meals together, prayed together, played together, walked the boardwalk together, reenacted DaVinci's Last Supper together (above), and conversed together about one of the most familiar biblical texts- Psalm 23.
We were led to the not-so-quiet waters of the Jersey Shore to contemplate the imagery of the ancient song and be refreshed by God's ḥesed, "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...":
"'Mercy' here is God's ḥesed, [Hebrew for] the love that never quits. It is a love that doesn't just follow, but always pursues us. To perceive God's love as pursuing rather than begrudged deepens our ability to trust."
---Howard R. Macy (The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible)
We concluded the weekend by anointing youth with oil. We considered the age-old invitation to follow Jesus as our Good Shepherd, who restores our souls, comforts us in dark valleys, prepares a feast of reconciliation in the presence of enemies, and anoints us with the Holy Spirit to live into the undying love of Jesus, God's ḥesed, found at the cross and resurrection. The oil was a symbol of taking a risk and saying yes to this invitation and divine calling.
My prayer is that all that took place this weekend, be they playful interactions, development of new friendships, or fresh encounters with a timeless text, would lead them to follow right paths as Christ's sheep. I pray they would know God's ḥesed goes with them and never quits on them. I pray they extend the same sort of love to others.
"The LORD is my shepherd..."
Here is a video of the weekend:
Here are the small group discussions for the weekend, feel free to use.