The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 14, 2013
This last week I had the joy of leading a session of summer camp at Camp Allen. Camp Allen is a beautiful camp and retreat center in Navasota. Camp Allen is also a ministry of the Diocese of Texas. Kids from across the Diocese can come for a week of horseback riding, archery, swimming, and everybody’s favorite – the blob. The blob is a giant pillow thing that sits in a lake. And when one kid jumps off an elevated dock onto the blob, the other kid goes flying into the air and lands in the lake. I think the blob gave rise to the phrase, “happy camper.”
Along with all of the ice cream and the end of the week dance, there is a lot of time for lessons about our faith. Lots of time for praying and singing and worshiping. Susan Kennard, who is the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Galveston, was my partner in leading all of spiritual program time. Our theme for the week was, “The Miracles of Jesus.”
Now I should say, our camp session was only for eight and nine year olds. Sixty of them. I cannot think of better preparation for a soon to be father. What I learned about eight and nine year olds is that they still believe in mystery. They aren’t the teenagers that think they are too cool for everything. And they aren’t bitter adults or disaffected twenty-somethings. Eight and nine year olds still have an imagination.
One of the miracles of Jesus from our week at Camp Allen was the story of the man born blind from the Gospel of John. The famous story where Jesus spits and makes mud, puts it on the man’s eyes. Then the man washes in the Pool of Siloam. When his eyes are opened, he says, “I once was blind, but now I see.”
To tell the story, we are all sitting in the dining hall at our campsite. I get one kid to put on sunglasses and hold a white cane to play the part of the blind man. Another little boy playing Jesus, puts Play Dough – “mud” – on the man’s eyes. And we have a kiddie pool outside filled with water that is the Pool of Siloam. And so the blind man is led outside, with Play Dough on his eyes. But the rest of the campers stay inside.
And I cannot make this stuff up. As the blind man goes to wash the Play Dough off his eyes in a kiddie pool, the other fifty-nine campers rush to the window and press their little faces looking out. Fifty-nine little children – getting a glimpse of this glorious and mysterious miracle. Fifty-nine little children – seeing what the Lord Jesus has done for the blind man.
As it says in Colossians, “just as the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.” Those fifty-nine little children comprehended something that day at Camp Allen. They saw the grace of God. They heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Even though it was just Play Dough and a kiddie pool, with their imagination it was the mud of Christ and the Pool of Siloam. I saw fifty-nine little faces that were bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God.
I want you to hold that image in your mind. Think of those fifty-nine little faces, pressed up against the window, trying to get a glimpse of what Jesus had done for that man. Trying to comprehend the grace of God. And then I ask you to think of the people in your lives. Think of those people who are standing with their faces pressed against the glass, looking at you, wondering why in the world you go to church. Trying to comprehend why it is that you follow Jesus. Trying to figure out what it is that you heard, that made you get up this morning to worship the Lord Jesus.
See, those fifty-nine little campers are representatives of our world today. A world that looks in at us, a world that does not understand what it is we do here or why we do it. A world that does not comprehend the grace of God. A world that does not know Jesus. Each one of you, each one of us, has an opportunity. Each of us has an opportunity to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.
I know that each one of you has a reason for being here this morning. I know that in some form or fashion, Jesus put mud on your eyes and has made you see. And there is a whole world out there, a world that wants to know how that happened. There are people that are pressing their faces against the window into your life. There is at least one person in your life that is curious as to why you worship the Lord Jesus.
My challenge for you this summer, is for you to tell them why. I ask you to compose the story of your faith. Tell them how Jesus put mud on your eyes. Tell them how he made you to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Tell them how you once were blind, but now you see. Help somebody else to comprehend the grace of God.
You may feel silly talking about it. And I totally get it. Speaking about our faith is incredibly personal. You may think you sound like a crazy person because you mention Jesus so much. But here’s the deal – I am not asking you to put Play Dough on anybody’s eyes. I am not asking you to pretend that a kiddie pool with cute little fish painted all over it is the Pool of Siloam. I am definitely not asking you to revert to your childhood; to become eight years old again. I am simply asking you to be honest. To figure out why it is that you are here, and then be unashamed to talk about it.
See, the Kingdom of God is bearing fruit in all the world. What I saw this week, is a whole crop of children who experienced the love of God. I saw a dozen high school students who gave up a week of their summers to be counselors, and to sleep in hot, smelly cabins with those little kids. I saw college students who worked at Camp Allen, who will be there this entire summer. They aren’t there because of the fat paycheck, but because they are bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God.
But they weren’t always like that. At some point, those high school students and those college kids were pressing their face to the window, looking out. At some point, they were trying to comprehend the grace of God. And none of those people would have been at Camp Allen had it not been for somebody – just one person – who shared with them the good news of Jesus Christ. I would not have been there had it not been for the people of the church who told me about Jesus. My friend and fellow priest Susan would not have been there if somebody had failed to share the gospel with them.
The good news of Jesus Christ, is that God is always with us. That no matter where we are or what we do, the love of God will never leave us. There were fifty-nine little faces pressed against a window trying to sort that out. And there are people in our lives and in our homes doing the same. Trying to comprehend how it is that God loves us so much. Do not leave them curious. Share the good news. Bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. Be the love of Jesus.