While preparing for my sermon this afternoon I was thinking about the title for this celebration of the ministry of Camp Calumet.
The title of 18,250 Moonlit Nights got me thinking about all the nights that I have spent on the shores of Lake Ossipee.
In my lifetime I like many of you have spent many nights gazing at the stars, or wondering at the brilliant moonlight.
Some of the best moonlit nights were when I was a counselor in the boys Junior End.
I spent my career as a camp counselor in unit one, and therefore got to live for three summers on lakefront property. (Properly the last time in my life that will happen.)
Those nights are special because after the kids had gone to bed we had time to talk and let out steam at the end of what was usually a long day.
One of the things that we would talk about a lot on those moonlit nights was why we came to camp every year.
Why did we give up care free easy summers at home with friends to come and work real hard trying to mold kids, who basically drove us crazy?
Why did we care so deeply about Camp Calumet?
We came to the early conclusion that we did not do it for the money.
Working at camp as you all know was not a good way to get rich quick.
One night sitting around in the Boys junior end we figured out that we basically got paid about $.70 an hour.
My Fraternal Grandfather helped pay for me, my two sisters, and my cousin Amy to go to camp to be CIT’s.
He would say every time, “I don’t understand this camp. You have to pay them to work there?”
So if not for the money why?
Well, if you could ask the seventeen year old version of me (and by the way this was a unanimous vote in the Boys Junior end. And I mean no disrespect. I only want to express the views of my seventy year old self.)
Any way if you asked me then I would have told it was because of the girls.
Think about it.
As a guy working at camp the ratio was almost 2 girls for every boy.
You had a pretty good chance under those conditions.
How else do you think a guy that looks like me gets to marry someone as beautiful as my wife Vicki?
How else does Karl Ogren get to marry someone as beautiful as my sister Jen?
Todd Dickenson, who was an attractive young man, but at camp he was “Todd, Todd, the boating god.”
OK so that was the seventeen year old version of myself.
Now after years of growing up and maturing I think about it differently.
Why do we all love this place?
Why do we give our money to it, why do we continue to go back year after year, why do we insist that our children go to Calumet.
I was reading on his blog that Rick Dacey travels back from Australia to make sure his kids get to go to Calumet.
Why do so many alumni move to the north woods of New Hampshire just to be closer to it.
Why do we love it so much?
In my older more mature years I have come to the conclusion that it is because at camp we experience God.
I want to be careful here, notice I did not say camp was God, I said here in this place we experience God.
At camp we are able to see God in a way that is sometimes harder in our hurried normal everyday life.
This afternoon I would like to share with you some of the ways we experience God at Camp Calumet.
The first is through relationships.
Camp is a place that fosters and encourages us to be friends.
Friendship I would say is one of the great tenets of Camp Calumet.
Here we experience people that care about the same things we do.
Here we experience authentic Christian community that cares about each other.
To this day I still hold the friendships I made at camp as the most important in my life.
I know that some of you who worked at camp at the beginning fifty years ago are still close friends to this day.
We forget sometimes that the Christian Church is primarily about relationships.
Yes, those relationships are formed around some core beliefs, but the relationships we share with one another are still primary in our lives.
God does not desire of us to merely adhere to doctrine as much as he counts on us to stick with and love one another.
What Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel of John this afternoon is to, “love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus command to us is to love one another, make our relationships of primary importance.
We experience God at Calumet because there we experience love for each other.
We experience God at Calumet because we participate in the giving of ourselves to something greater then ourselves.
When we give of ourselves to help a child learn, to make the planet cleaner, to spread peace and love then God is involved.
Giving of ourselves is a godly action.
To this day many of us continue to give as we support Calumet not only with our hearts but with our pocket books.
There is great joy in being able to give knowing that it is for a greater purpose.
How many of you had campers that became counselors and thanked you for making sure they had a week of fun, faith, and friendship.
It makes changing wet beds well worth the effort.
We experience God at Calumet through giving of ourselves.
We experience God at calumet because it is here that as young people we are entrusted to teach the Bible to children.
I had heard Bible stories before going to camp, but when you have to know it enough to teach it and have it make sense to others that it grows in you.
Even more some of the Bible passages that I love to this day I discovered at Calumet.
For example, one year in unit one we had secret Santas and Heather Briggs made me this poster with my name and inside the letters were all the great things about life.
One of them was Psalm 139.
Before that I had never read Psalm 139.
I read it and it became one of my favorite and most cherished Bible passages.
At camp my faith grew because I experienced God in pages of the Bible.
I discovered there a God of love, a God who cared about me, and would give anything for me.
As the Psalmist wrote, “If I take the wings of morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your right hand shall hold me fast.”
I have taken those words and all of God’s promises with me all the rest of my life.
At Camp we experience God’s words of grace and mercy.
This leads me to my final point.
And what I am about to say actually comes from Pastor Henry Moris.
We once had a conversation when I was program director and he was the Chaplain.
It really affected the way I think about Calumet and what happens to us there.
I was complaining to Henry that some Pastors don’t seem to get the beauty and importance of camp.
They complain that it is not Lutheran enough because we teach too much about peace, love, and harmony, and not enough about Lutheran doctrine.
Henry told me that camp does not teach about Lutheran doctrine but rather it lives it.
He used as an example someone who had swam the lake that day.
He said when that person got to shore there were twenty people there early in the morning to cheer them on.
It did not matter what the time was or if they had beet the previous record.
They were cheering only because this person was a person to care about.
That is grace at its best.
Perhaps camp does not teach grace, but those of us who love it can tell you there we experience the wonder and beauty of God’s grace all the time.
Calumet is that place you go where people are glad you are there, not for any reason other then you are another child of God.
No one cares about your accomplishments or your bank account, they only care that you are there.
I remember this one summer I had to stay at college in Pennsylvania after my class finished I went to camp to volunteer for the last two weeks.
I was walking onto to camp and Sarah Carlson, now Arndt (Another example of why we go to camp) saw me walking towards the office and she came out and ran to me screaming.
She was so happy to see me.
That does not happen in real life.
Most of the time people could give or take our presence, I think at camp we feel the presence of God’s grace because it is there we are accepted for who we are.
We are not perfect, but unique beloved children of the same God.
That is ultimately why we love Calumet, it is why we give our money, it is why we go back again and again to sit on the shores of lake Ossipee, it is why Rick Dacey flies back from Australia to make sure his kids get to camp at calumet, it is why alumni move to the north woods of New Hampshire, it is why we give up summers to make $.70 an hour, it is why we are passionate about it, because there at that sacred space God comes to us and tells us that we are indeed loved and that other people care about us.