*note: since the campers were made uncomfortable in the first camping experience, I thought I would put myself in an uncomfortable position and preach without notes. While this was my thoughts put down, my actual sermon may differ. You can always find recordings at www.tlcrichmond.org .
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself our sins to set us free for the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Trinity Lutheran has had great connections to the camps of the ELCA. From Michi-Lucha, which was recently sold, to Stony Lake many great memories have been made. Some of you may even remember a couple of the other camps that once existed in Michigan within the Lutheran church. For an extrovert, camp can be a very exciting and feeding place. For an introvert it can be quite overwhelming and takes time to adjust to the different setting. For someone that is introverted, it was nice that I had down times to read and work on my sermon.
I have to go back a long way to remember the first time that I went to outdoor camp. In fact, it was the only time I had went to an outdoor camp as a child. It was for Seventh Grade camp in junior high and we left on a Monday morning and returned Friday afternoon. I remember mostly the hikes that we went on and the salamanders that were everywhere in the woods. I also remember doing some skill building and trust style games, much like the campers did this past week at Stony Lake. It is in these activities and games that relationships are built and friendships are made.
It is in these relationships that God encourages us to be one and to live in community. It is in the letter to the Galatians that Paul is trying to restore his relationship with them with a little corrective action and get them back on the right track in following the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In our fifth week of Galatians, Paul’s concerns move to an instruction on the flesh and the Spirit. We can equate living in the flesh, fulfilling our own personal desires, to the sin that we live in and the actions that we participate in that are counter-productive to God’s desire for us. The struggles and challenges come in the freedom that is given to us by God. The freedom to make our own decisions and usually making mistakes along the way. This seems to be the one thing that we are good at as humans. It is in those mistakes that we are able to learn and be corrected. It is in the mistakes and miss-direction that the Galatians make that Paul steps in to correct. His letter is a reminder to them of the grace of God and that nothing is required by us to receive that grace.
While the grace of God is completely free, we still manage to turn to the works of the flesh to accomplish our own deepest desires. This is true in all facets of our lives and can even be seen at camp. From the anger that arises when we think that people are not listening to us, to the quarrels and dissensions that occur when we have differing viewpoints. This was made most evident at camp during the low-ropes courses as our group was faced with certain challenges and had to properly communicate with one another to accomplish their goal. These are great opportunities to learn team-building skills, as well as learning to communicate with each other. It takes time though and it does not always happen the way that you want it to, especially when two leaders have differing opinions and everyone wants to talk at the same time. In the freedom that we have, it is also important to listen and work together in community.
Paul’s message this morning focuses on this very aspect and encourages the people of Galatia to bear fruit of the Spirit. As children of God we are all given the fruit of the Spirit, and it is a matter of how we discern it in our lives and how we choose to share it with our sisters and brothers. Let me tell you, it is amazing to see confirmation students grow over the course of a week and display many of these gifts. The love that they had for camp was incredible; the disappointment that happened when one of them realized that it was Thursday and that we were leaving the following day showed this love for new friends and Stony Lake. Joy could be seen all around as they worshipped and sang, laughed and clapped. Peace was central to our conversations in Bible Study as we discussed what it meant to forgive and the peace that it brought to one’s heart when forgiveness occurs.
While patience at times was hard to come by, especially on the way to camp, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?”, it was learned in the low-ropes courses as they had to listen to one another. The kindness that they showed one another in the words of encouragement was wonderful and I truly appreciated it when it was given to me while I was up on the high-ropes course.
Generosity shined through those that help support our campers by giving money and helping send them to camp to grow in their faith. And that faith being tested and them learning how to take a stand for something that they believe in. Gentleness was learned by the end of the week in their communication with one another as they got better in talking to each other and explaining to each other the best way to accomplish their goals. Self-control is central to interacting with the community at camp as they showed they can act appropriately and be respectful of everyone around them.
Camp brought a week of revelations for the campers and I hope a week of awareness and change as they learned how to stand up for those things that they believe in and learned about doing justice in our world. It was a week that the Spirit was moving in and through everyone. Paul’s words this week speak to our week of camp as we are reminded to live in the Spirit and let it guide us.
I wish that I could bring a little bit of camp back for all of you to experience. It definitely is renewing and a great reminder that we are remade in Christ everyday through the grace of God.