Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Faith That Grows!

The last two weeks I have been at Camp Calumet Lutheran.
Last week I was on vacation, but the week before that I had the honor of being the chaplain.
It is something that always rejuvenates me.
I get to be around young men and women who are idealistic.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
More than this I get to see them giving of themselves all the time for the greater good.
I overheard two counselors talking about how little money they make, how much they have to work, and yet how they get so much more out of it than they put into it.
This year I loved it for another reason.
I got to see the way that the staff struggled with faith.
I am not talking about believing in God.
All of the staff believes in God.
But what do they believe about God.
That is not such an easy answer.
And for young men and women from 16 to 25 it is even more difficult.
They are all forming those answers.

This morning we see Peter struggling with his own faith.
Not his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, but in what that means that Jesus was the Messiah.
Just last week he was the hero.
When Jesus asked, “who do you say that I am?”
Peter gave the right answer that Jesus was the Messiah.
Today we see that even when we give the right answer we might not fully understand.

One of the things I love about the disciples is that I always find them relatable.
We can all understand Peter.
We all have struggled to understand God.
None of us gets it completely.
Peter thinks Jesus is going to set up a great new kingdom, and there at his right hand will be Peter.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
But Peter goes from being the rock to being a stumbling block.
He goes from the gates of Hades not prevailing against him to being Satan.
This is quite the turn of events.

But I can understand Peter.
Jesus plan does not sound like a very good one.
Instead of establishing a great kingdom and rescuing the people of God from the Romans Jesus is going to die on a cross and rise again.
That does not sound very grand.
It does not sound very Godly.

Here is the problem for most of us we have no problem with the grand plan.
It is the when it is dirty and messy that we can’t come to terms with it.

I noticed the same is true at camp.
When we are in the outdoor chapel dancing and singing praises to God it all seems great.
When we are trying to deal with a problem camper, or another staff member who does not agree with me then it gets messy.
When the skit we planned does not go well we get disappointed.
When we are trying to help the kids understand how the Bible verse for that day relates to the theme of the day and we don’t understand.
But the message of the cross is that God is in it all.
God is in our disbelief as much as in our certitude.
God is in the calm but also admits the chaos.
God is right there in the mix.
I am sure that all of the people who worked at Calumet this summer grew in ways they never knew possible.
I am sure that their faith was strengthened through all the questions and the uncertainty.

During my vacation week my sister’s father in law who is a Lutheran pastor in Pennsylvania was telling me that he never knew the gifts he had until camp Calumet.
That it was there that God called him into the ministry through other peoples and through the chaos of his own life.
God was at work in his life even though he didn’t understand it fully at the time.

We can understand why Peter is confused because we are often confused.
We want God to do something big.
We want God to cure diseases, part the waters, create peace in the Middle East, and stop hurricanes.
Jesus death changes our notion of how God is at work in our lives and in the world.
God is at work in the questioning and searching of a twenty two year old trying to find work and their place in the world.
God is at work in the relief workers who come to lend a hand to their neighbors.
God is at work in the family member keeping vigil while their loved one dies.
God is at work in the chaos of life.

One of the other reasons I like being at camp is because it makes you see that the world is not so bad.
Often in the church our conversations revolve around how horrible things are now.
How the kids are out of control.
How we don’t teach and respect authority.
How kids only care about their video games.
How things used to be better is some by gone era.
I suppose there is some truth in those complaints.
But we always must remember that God is always at work.
In all things God is moving.
Being around young people that do care about the world about others changes your perspective.
It makes you more hopeful.

You see that even through the death of things that once we cherished there is God building up.
Perhaps we all need to lose those notions of the way things should be.
Peter learned that God was always up to something that went well beyond his comprehension.
If we forget this then we loose perspective.
We end up pulling Jesus over to the side and saying, “You know Jesus this might be what you want but it does not fit my notion of how God works so let’s not do it your way.”
We have expectations of what it means to follow Jesus that are often crushed by the reality of what it actually is to follow Jesus.

I know that many times people will get involved in volunteering or doing ministry.
Then they get disappointed because no one said thank you, or the situation of the person they were trying to help never changed.
We have to learn that it is through us being there that life changes.

Jesus changed our perspective on God because he was here with us.
Jesus went through every conceivable pain of human life, even death on a cross to show us that God was at work in all things.
Even the chaos, the loss, the hard times, the disappointing times God is always up to something.
I saw it at Camp Calumet.
I see it in our life together as a community trying to pick up our crosses as we follow Jesus.

I see it as we help our Bhutan refugee family, as we serve at the friendly kitchen, as we gather items for the poor, as we reach out to new people, as we care for one another.
I see it as we struggle together to grow in faith.
To learn more about how God is at work in the world and our lives.
I see it as we struggle sometimes to love each other, and loose our lives so that we might really find them.

Martin Luther once said, “Behold, from faith thus flows forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, of gain or loss.”
The perspective of a deep faith is that what comes out is not victory but service.
This is the faith that Peter is struggling to understand, it is the faith that we are struggling to understand.
But when we do we become little Christ daily picking up our crosses and follow Jesus in love and joy.

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