Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Lent, Series C

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2nd Sunday in Lent, March 4, 2007, “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, how easy it is for us to falter and fail to live our lives according to your will. Even when we strive with the best of intentions to be faithful to your word, we often fall short. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen our awareness of what it means to be your baptized children and give us courage to cling to your grace, which was poured out for us through your Son, Jesus the Christ, who was nailed to the cross for our redemption. Amen.

I would like to begin my message this morning, by sharing an experience I had in my former parish, which has stuck with me all these years. I just had a great week of confirmation camp. It was one of those times that everything just seemed to go right, and I had left camp that Saturday morning on a spiritual high.

The following Monday, I was back at camp. Because our congregation was within ten miles of Lutherlyn, we teamed up with another local congregation to conduct Vacation Bible School at the camp. Following our welcome for the children, Pastor Steiner and I went to the dining hall for some tea and coffee. We sat at the same table that our older youth and I had occupied the previous week. And there in that empty dining room, I felt this tremendous void, missing that experience I had with my older youth at confir-camp.

Since Pastor Steiner was a good friend of mine, I shared my feelings with him – how close I felt to those kids, how that week had deepened my own faith, and the void I was feeling now that it was over. Bill looked at me with a smile on his face, and said, “Ron, I’ve had several of those special weeks here at camp. And I’ve learned that you might be able to grow from those experiences, but you can’t capture them. You need to let it go, because this is a new week, with other kids, who need us to share this time, with them.”

That was a valuable lesson for me to learn. Each week I spend at camp is a new opportunity to experience God’s presence in community with those who share that time with me. Each week I spend at camp is special to me. And like Pastor Steiner, who has since joined the church triumphant, I have had several weeks at Lutherlyn that have been great experiences.

There is something special about spending time at camp, without TV, radio, newspapers, video games, or other distractions – time spent in community with one another, centered in Christ. It is a time in which we worship daily, share faith stories, and hear again the basics of our faith. It is a time in which we play together, sing crazy songs, and let the child that is in each of us surface. Perhaps this is the reason that the Search Report discovered that spending a week at church camp is the second most influential factor in the faith development of youth – second only to the faith commitment of mothers.

This is why I would love to see us develop an adult retreat program here at St. John’s. If only for a couple of days on a weekend, it would provide us with the opportunity to step outside of our daily routines, and focus that time in communion with God and with one another. For it has been my experience, that when I spend this time in retreat, I am often led to a deeper commitment to Christ.

But Pastor Steiner’s advice to me those many years ago, is ever so true. Not only can I not capture and hold onto the experience of a great week at camp. Not only is each time I spend in retreat at Lutherlyn a different experience, providing new opportunities for personal growth in faith. I can’t seem to be able to hang onto those deeper commitments that I feel and make at camp, to change the way I live my life when I come home from the retreat.

Oh, my intentions are sincere. But when I come home from camp, I give Josie a hug and kiss, tell her I love her and missed her, unload the truck, empty my suitcase, and lay down on the couch for a nap. But before long, the TV is turned on, I begin working the crosswords and sudoku puzzles that Josie has saved from the papers, and boom, it doesn’t take long for me to be back into my normal routine.

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