Sunday, May 6, 2018

Year B 6th Easter 6 April 2018 Complete Joy

Year B 6th Sunday of Easter, 6 May 2018 
“Shrine Mont Camps Day” 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Complete Joy”  
1 John 5:1-6 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.  John 15:9-17 Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant 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. 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. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”  
It is so good to be back. It is so good to be where I know and am known. Last Sunday I was preaching to a room full of people in St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kumasi, Ghana, and while we spoke the same language, English, I could tell that most of them could not understand a word I was saying. My accent was just too different. I spoke slower and tried very hard to be clear and make hand motions to help out and be understood. Alas, they were polite and most kept their eyes open, but not all. 

As a preacher, I want you all to be able to understand and relate to what I am talking about. I want you all to be clear about what I am trying to convey to you. I am trying real hard for you to “get it.” 

Jesus, in today’s reading, is very much trying to do the same. He wants all that are hearing him, his close associates and apostles attending the Last Supper, to hear, obey, and be complete. In fact, it makes it abundantly clear, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”  

That our joy may be complete. What does complete joy look like?  

This was the same text in our Wednesday morning Eucharist a few weeks ago, and I trust that our righteous regulars to that might be able to hear a few echoes from that talk. But in our joy, we are not speaking about happiness.  

Joy comes from within, no matter our situation. Joy is our appreciation of who we are, and whose we are. Joy is the attitude of gratitude for all that we have been given, and all that we have been enabled to do. Happiness is a feeling in response to a situation, while Joy is a choice in how we respond. And God wants us to choose to abide, and in so doing, God wants our Joy to be complete.  

I think that it is very appropriate to be speaking to Complete Joy on the Sunday when we speak about Shrine Mont Camps. I have had the good fortune to be a part of Shrine Mont Camps for 8 of the last 9 years. My daughters do not remember a time when they were not going to Shrine Mont every summer.  

Camp has always been a big part of my ministry, because it is so direct, so hands on, so life-changing. Think about it, apart from a boarding school situation, Camp is one of the few places where you can share Christ’s love 100% of the time. At Church on Sunday, we all go home. In School settings where I have been Chaplain, it has been the same way. There is an end to the day.  

At Camp, you are with your campers 24/7. You can feed people as a ministry, clean cabin with them as a ministry, teach Bible study as a ministry, sing silly songs as a ministry, you can basically do what Jesus said to do. He came that we might “live life, and live it more abundantly.” And in a phrase, that is what Camp is all about ABUNDANT LIFE.  

And just like I love Camp, because every ounce of every day can be ministry, for the campers it is the same. It is a place where they can “try on” loving everybody as a way of life. God, Neighbor, Self. Loving them all with all we’ve got all day every day. Camp is a safe space to do just that, living in that Complete Joy. It is not the same for all kids, but a vast majority of the kids I have worked with at Camp have adored it and do not want their session to end, no matter how long that is. They love Camp because Camp is about loving. Receiving and giving love. We sing songs, eat great food, play games, and life is good. We do Camp because it is the best of life all rolled up into one week, or so, and it is a celebration of what we hold most dear.  

I have worked at Summer Camps for over 25 years. Most people know me as Rock because that was a camp name that just stuck. I tried going by Jeff in the real world, but camp just drug me right back in. (No complaints) 

In my training for my camp staffs over the years, I remind them about the role that they can play in a young person’s life. One session of camp they wear a lot of hats: Mom, Coach, Dad, Teacher, Chaplain, Friend, Nurse, and Disciplinarian. And that is just before breakfast. A Cabin Counselor spends more time with a child in one week that their Sunday School teacher spends with them for an entire year. Think on that. And even more influential, the campers see us in all our states, silly, grumpy, hungry, tired, hurting, loving, caring, honest. They see us as we are because there is no place or space to hide. What you see is what you get. Nothing more or less. In fact, Camp has so shaped my understanding of self and my ministry, that I have forever been changed.  

I learned to follow Jesus by trying to do it at camp. There is no downtime. There is no off the clock. You are on from the moment you wake till you collapse in bed at rest hour and at lights out. This is a good thing; we do not get to clock out of following Jesus. God wants our joy to be complete, not halfway or partial. And in our following of Christ, it must be a fulltime, all-the-time commitment. 
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world.” I John 5:2-4 

And that is why I love Camp so much. What we do at God’s Holy Hill does not just stay there. What we try on at Camp, what we live out in the world. “For whatever is born of God conquers the world…”  And Camp, I can testify, is born of God.  

In a few moments we will commission the campers who are heading out to Shrine Mont Camps, or any other camps, as well as those who will be working at camps this summer. We pray for God to speak to them and, perhaps, through them. We pray for safety. I, most assuredly, will be praying for their Abundant Life that Camp affords. 

From I John again: “...for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”  
I did some homework on this word conquers. It connotes a battle has happened. It is not a mere declaration of “I win.” and it is over. It is not that simple. There is a struggle that has ensued, and someone has prevailed. 
 In the last few weeks I have seen so much. I have struggled with airplane seats and very small vans, but these are all luxuries when I think about it. The real struggle I have had, and we all have, is with that part of ourselves which we hold back from God. Like small children, we think we can hide or keep it away. God is bigger and wiser than that. We struggle with the world because we do not have the faith to give it over to God. Christ conquered the world once and for all. The game is finished, we are waiting for the clock to stop. Our faith in Christ is what gives us the Victory over any and everything. Our faith in Christ is our greatest treasure, anything else is petty. Our faith is our Victory, and our faith is Christ’s Victory. He came for that. He said as much in John 10:10.  
I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.  
That is why we do what we do, and that is why we send our kids to Camp, and hold Vacation Bible School, and Easter Egg Hunts, and all the rest. “Anything done for a child is never a waste,” said Garrison Keillor. I agree. 

Sisters and brothers, let us live in the Victory Christ has gained for us, and do so with the honor and glory it so richly deserves. Amen. 

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Blessings, Rock