A note to readers: I’ve been on a bit of a “blogattical”, which is my word for a blogging sabbatical, post election. I’ve been silent, not because I have nothing to say, but because the volume of rhetoric has been so amplified that it’s felt as if everyone’s talking and nobody’s really listening anyway. So I’ve been silent, seeking to live into James’ exhortation a bit more than usual: “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”. I think the “blogattical” will continue a bit longer, but with sporadic entries breaking the silence as appropriate, at least until Lent. The first breaking of the silence is today’s entry on lessons learned from Camp Andrews. Thanks for reading, and as always, I welcome both your feedback and your comments.
After a red-eye flight to Boston, and a chip shot from there to Philadelphia, I soon find myself at Sandy Cove, a wonderful conference center in Maryland where I’m privileged to speak for a few days to people who work for camps on the Atlantic coast. In the room of 200-300 guests, I know perhaps 3 people. I make my way to a random table and introduce myself. I discover that they are all employees of “Camp Andrews”, a camp with Mennonite roots, which leads to conversation about Fresno, and then Yosemite, and ultimately “the west”, where few of them have ever been. As the conversation develops I discover that these rural Mennonites, in Lancaster County, PA, are passionate about brining inner city youth to their small camp and introducing them to the outdoors and Jesus Christ. Youth for whom concrete and hip-hop are their common experience make their way to Camp Andrews for a week. Here they hear the night sounds of the forest, see stars, climb, learn of creation’s rhythms, learn of Christ’S love, and experience that love ‘in the flesh’ through the fine folks sitting at this table. They light up, all of them, when they speak of the work they do, of the lives that are changed, of how much they love exposing inner city kids to God’s books of text and creation, kids who know precious little of either.
My heart melts as I see their passion, and I leave the table realizing that this is likely the first time I’ve had a good long conversation at a meal table without talking about politics since about November 9th. It’s clear to me that they know their calling. They were doing it when Obama was in office. They’re doing it now. They’ll still be doing it after the mid-terms. “Whatever your hand finds to do… do it” Their camp’s not big. They’re not in headlines. They’re just getting on with their calling.
Most of the rest of us could take a cue from them. I say this because I’ve never in my life felt the mission of God’s people so shrouded in political fears and accusations. Evangelicals are alternatively gloating, angry, afraid, accusing, protesting, and counter-protesting, and all of it’s about the new Ceasar in town. The fruit of it? We the church are more divided than I’ve ever seen us, more accusatory of our own, more distrusting, more cynical. It’s a lot of sound and fury, and its created an environment where it’s easy to get clicks, but hard to contribute to the unity of Christ’s body.
What a joy to be reminded, by a humble, hard-working group from rural Pennsylvania, that there’s a third way. They’re not hand-wringing. They’re not gloating. They’re simply doing what they know they’re called to do. Ceasars come and go, and so, by the way, do nations. God’s kingdom work though? It’s always there, waiting to be done. You have a part, and so do I.
I can already hear the accusations that this is disengagement. Here’s my response: 1000 inner city kids spend a life-transforming week in the woods each summer because of the work of these fine folk. If you want to call that disengagement, suit yourself. From my chair, they’re fulfilling the reality of I Corinthians 15:58 –
“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord”
We need to continually remind ourselves that while advocacy for the poor, the unborn, immigrants, and other people on the margins is always part of our calling, that same calling has never, ever been wed to a single political party, let alone a nation. The kings of this world are just that: kings of the this world. Proverbs rightly tells us that good kings make countries better and bad kings make them worse. But Jesus, also rightly, and profoundly, says, “My kingdom is not of this world” – so get on with working out your citizenship and calling in your eternal kingdom, whether that means marching, or skiing with your neighbors, or making good art, or crossing social divides.
Each of us have a calling, and that we need to rise up and do it day after day. For the vast majority of us our calling won’t change, no matter who’s in power.