Miracles > Special Effects: Feeding Stories

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A volunteer serves an Elizabeth Inn resident at the Loaves and Fishes kitchen in Marietta, Georgia.

John 6:1-21

Ask any preacher, and they’ve got a back-pocket feeding of the 5,000 story.

One of my colleagues talks about sharing a pan of fudge around Calumet, and so many people content to have only a taste that over 90 people got to enjoy the same plate of fudge. 

Others tell stories of travel, of people who did not know one another coming together to produce a whole meal for all. The stories are everywhere: of sports moms and refugee moms that produce extra snacks out of nowhere, of funerals where a community comes together to feed a family for months, of that one guy who comes to James Taylor every July 4 with enough sangria for all of Tanglewood.

Turns out it’s not just preachers; we all have stories of people who pooled their resources to feed people. You likely have your own. 

This week, several of us went to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors food pantry in South Hadley as part of our stewardship program, Sowing and Sharing Faith — we’re learning about all of the programs that we support. Mary Lou gave us a tour, introducing us to the procedures that govern the pantry, where the customers go when they come in, the process they have to go through to get their food, and the community that occurs while a family’s order is being prepared by the food pantry volunteers. The food pantry itself is a feeding of the 5,000 story — this miracle happens two days a week at the Methodist church in the falls, and we are only a part of the many individuals and organizations that keep it going. 

We all have a feeding of the 5,000 story — one where pooling our resources with others results in more people getting fed than we ever thought possible.

One of mine comes from my seminary days working in a shelter in suburban Atlanta for people living in homelessness. The Elizabeth Inn’s shelter program included one meal per day for the residents — dinner. We volunteers would check the residents into the shelter, then we would go and eat dinner with them. 

The aptly named Loaves and Fishes kitchen was staffed entirely by volunteers — almost always members of local churches. The environment was much less than fancy: the interior had never moved out of the 1960s and probably wasn’t terribly stylish back then. The interior was quite brown, but the atmosphere was warm. I have a lot of wonderful memories in that kitchen, hearing everything from heart wrenching stories to hilarious one-liners. I heard stories of homes lost to fire and harrowing tales of emigrating to the US. I also learned the high value of hot sauce on fried chicken.

I learned that life was difficult for everyone, but to varying degrees and often for very different and competing reasons. Food was multiplied, and so was friendship, in that kitchen that, regardless of what was being served, always smelled of mashed potatoes and fried chicken.

When we first received our tour of the place, I remember my supervisor mentioning that they serve dinner to residents 365 days per year. Typically on Christian holidays as well as at other times, the local synagogues would help out. And on the occasions when a Jewish holiday and a Christian holiday fell at the same time, one particular local mosque was known for taking over the meal.

Like the 5,000, all of those faith groups gathered at one place for one reason: they had heard about a force for good in the world and they wanted to be part of it, and often they found themselves fed as well. 

Loaves and Fishes Kitchen, indeed. 

One of my favorite frustrations with the average modern church person is still getting hung up, even after so long, on literal interpretations vs. metaphorical ones. As if you can only choose one; as if scientific truth and the truth of ancient wisdom were always diametrically opposed. They are sometimes, sure. We no longer just sacrifice goats to cure diseases; now we know better.

But it’s in the stories in the Bible where this either/or dichotomy breaks down. We get so hung up on whether things literally happened: whether Jonah got swallowed by an actual fish or whether Jesus actually used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 people or whether they simply pooled their resources and shared and there was enough for everyone. As if we could prove anything either way.

It doesn’t actually matter, you know.

Because it’s a miracle whenever people — whether one boy or many people in a crowd — share their resources and Jesus’ presence makes it more than enough. I think we miss that sometimes. We miss the miracles right in front of us because we’re banking on magic tricks.

The folks in John do a lot of that. They follow Jesus around, hoping that he’ll do more “signs.” The author of John isn’t impressed with those folks, and neither is Jesus. Focusing on the signs, which to them are some kind of impressive sorcery, they miss the real honest-to-God miracle: they got to meet almighty God in the flesh.

We do that all the time in church and in the Bible.

We look for special effects and we miss the miracles. 

We look for a ton of people breaking down our doors one Sunday (when they finally understand that Lutheran theology and liturgy are good for the soul) and we miss the love that already lives right here. Love that spans generations. You have loved one another so long, all the while continuing to accept new members of the family who happen upon our community one Sunday and decide to stay. That’s a miracle. 

We look for a giant surplus in our finances so that we won’t have to worry anymore, and we miss the incredible generosity of our congregation. If you haven’t really looked hard at church finances, you might miss it on our budget sheets: you, and we, give at the rate of a church at least three times our size. That’s a miracle.

We look for special effects and we miss miracles. We look for what’s not there and we miss what is there. We miss the realities that point towards hope. Realities that give us everything we need with more left over. And our reality is incredible love and incredible generosity. This is the kind of church that, while it may have an unclear future, has a future.

This is the kind of church that every pastor wants. This is the kind of congregation that those searching for Christianity that does good in the world want to find: somewhere they can find inclusive community and ancient tradition and new life and ways to spread love and people who encourage them to be better humans. 

Ask any preacher and they have a pocket feeding of the 5,000 story.

If I’m honest, I’ll have to say that I have a few. The Loaves and Fishes kitchen is one of my favorites, where people come together from all kinds of backgrounds to find nourishment and companionship. 

My latest loaves and fishes story, however, is an ongoing one. It’s us. It’s the story of a church where we don’t miss miracles looking for special effects. It’s one where we cherish each other and we cherish God’s presence among us. 

In the next five weeks, we’re going to be talking a lot about bread, staple carb in the ancient world as now. Get ready to talk about nourishment and God’s presence among us and getting more than we need. Get ready to talk about miracles. Get ready to cherish each other and God’s presence among us. Get ready to be another feeding of the 5,000 story. Amen.

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“Oh Honey, You’re Not Jesus.”

Thoughts from vacation.

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Me and my buddy Kathleen on the Beltline in Atlanta last week.

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Since you came to church, I’ll assume you’re okay with Bible-ing with me a little harder than usual for a second.
Before the Gospel lesson: If you were to have to preach about this, what would you preach about?

“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”

Sometimes, we preachers find that our first instinct in reading a story or other text sets us on the road to the best sermon we could preach on it. It happens more the more you try preaching, but I think that most of us learn to question our first reactions. 

There are times, you see, when our modern American reading of the Bible can obscure the words themselves, even when those words contain pure Gospel. Case in point: I missed this on the first three readings:

“Come away… and rest awhile.” (v. 31) 

You know, the only thing Jesus actually told anyone to do in the whole thing.

If I have a glow about me today, it’s because I’ve just returned from vacation. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not great at taking “real” vacations. I often use my days off to go help out friends or family, and I’m incredibly thankful that my job is one that’s flexible so that I can do those things. On my usual days off here in South Hadley, I usually can’t find cause to stop moving. I plug my ears with podcasts and do housework or mow the lawn or go running. One of my favorite feelings is the internal hum of productivity. That’s why it takes a lot for me to tell you that this sermon is shorter than usual because I was quite serious about it this time.

Of course, constant productivity is not sustainable, because no human is infinite. It also doesn’t really help those around us. I often say that the true measure of leadership is how well your role gets performed when you’re not there. 

(This is only one reason why I will never be elected President.

This is also why I believe the presidency itself is broken — because no matter how we feel about any of the flawed people who’ve ever filled the role, none of them has ever been infinite.) 

Ancient and modern wisdom agree on a few things, and one of them is the need for rest. Our own stream of faith traditions calls it Sabbath, or something similar. 

Modern wisdom calls it something like self-care. 

Of course, we’re all capable of only varying amounts and degrees of rest. 

Kids and aging parents and other family or work responsibilities can whittle away at our time to rest. No matter how brief, however, rest is still a human need; it’s one that helps us be more whole, more human. So if you have no other time to rest other than while you’re here, take a moment to breathe with me. 

Come away and rest awhile. 

One of my favorite things about getting rest, no matter how short or long, is that you have time to actually think: to think about what you’re grateful for, about what you value, and other existential questions. Or, if you’re me, you spend a little of that time thinking about modern pop theology. 

Most of you know by now that I’ve had a sort of meandering faith journey. I was raised Southern Baptist, then I became a Methodist, then I finally found my place among the Lutherans. And while there are many reasons that the ELCA is home, you taught me one key thing should’ve been obvious, but when I heard Lutherans really make a thing of it, it changed everything: that there’s only one Savior and I’m not him. That the Gospel is a story about God; we’re just lucky enough to get to be part of it. 

In other words, what should be obvious, but isn’t: we are not Jesus Christ.

Tendency to make ourselves into Jesus, exhibit A: the Gospel today.

I don’t know what you thought about when you first heard it, but I read that Jesus suggests resting, and then the crowds crash in, and rest is put aside. 

Message we get: in times like this, with people in need, we don’t have time to rest. 

The world is crazy and chaotic and people are hurting. There are always more crowds. Maybe, we think, resting is irresponsible. 

This is when I feel like the Holy Spirit pats me on the head with, “Oh honey. (It’s God’s very favorite thing to call me.) You’re not Jesus.” 

Whenever we read a story, we identify with characters in the story. Today, we may say we are the disciples in this story, trying our best to follow Jesus. Jesus commands us to rest when we must and to try hard when we can. We get to be part of God’s work.

Or we may say today that we feel more like the crowds in this story, pressing in with our aching souls and aching bellies. For us, Jesus comes into our midst to heal us and feed us. The feeding of the 5,000 is in the verses we skipped out of the middle of this passage, you know.

Either way, we are not Jesus.

A wise Lutheran pastor I know, when speaking of overwork, said, “Honey, you don’t have to run yourself dead for Jesus. He already died for you.” 

We are not Jesus. Thank God.

This gives you permission to listen to the one commandment Jesus gave in this whole story: “Come away and rest awhile.” You do not have to heal the world, but you get to be part of its healing. And that healing includes your own soul as well as your neighbor’s, and it doesn’t quite work to be part of healing your neighbor’s soul while paying no attention to your own. 

So come away and rest awhile. Lean into the prayers and the singing and the bread and the wine and the grace and the people here who love you, whether you’re brand new, come occasionally, or show up all the time.Whether you feel yourself part of the crowds or one of the disciples, none of us is Jesus. Jesus is here for us.

We are saved by grace alone. There is nothing to earn here. You are loved just because you breathe.

Come away and rest awhile.

It’s my job here to preach the Gospel, and that seems like Good News to me. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go over here, so we can sing and pray and eat and rest awhile. Amen.

Tossed Into the World, Together

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The actual opening scene of The Lion King.

Mark 6:1-13

Many of you already know that, thanks both to church structures and decisions on my part, my pastor life got started two different times. The first time was my commissioning in the United Methodist Church in 2011, before I began serving my first church in Montgomery, Alabama, as a solo pastor. The United Methodist Church has pastors prove themselves in the parish for some years, calling it “commissioned ministry,” before finally ordinating them. Because of this policy, my pastor life got its second and final start with my actual ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 2016. 

Both times involved being blessed by a bishop and sent out. Both services felt exactly the same way in only one regard, though I felt this much more acutely in 2011 when I was fresh out of seminary. Like many things these days, it’s best expressed in a thing from the Internet. 

There’s this gif, this moving picture, of Rafiki, the baboon and wise man from Disney’s The Lion King. As in the opening scene of the movie, Rafiki is holding the main character, the Lion King himself, Simba, as a cub. In what is clearly a ceremony atop the highest rock, Rafiki holds up the young cub  before all the other animals. 

Except, in the hilarious internet version of the scene, Rafiki bends his elbows back and launches the young, freshly ordained cub off the rock and straight into the wild wild world. 

And that is what I felt like fresh out of seminary after a ceremony to commission me to pastor. [imitates gif by throwing stuffed penguin into congregation]
“Goodbye, kiddo! Good luck!” 

If you’re over the age of eighteen, or even if you’re not, youve probably felt that way at some point yourself: maybe after a graduation, a wedding, getting your driver’s license, having your first child, landing your first job in a new career: any time there’s a moment of celebration followed by the sinking feeling where you think “Uh oh. The training wheels are off and I have to actually do this thing.”

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Good luck, kid!

I imagine that’s how the disciples felt in the Gospel story today: thrown into everything. The whole thing begins with Jesus getting rejected by the folks in his hometown. He’s teaching in the synagogue, and they reject him by saying, “Isn’t this Joseph and Mary’s son?”

I think we forget sometimes that Jesus was only 33. An advanced adult by the standards of the day — the average life expectancy, after all, was only around 60, and most people got married and had children very young. Even so, at 33, there were still plenty of people who were old enough to think Jesus was just a local punk. There would’ve been folks around who remembered him in holy diapers.

They say, essentially, “Who does that Jesus punk think he is, lecturing us? 

Then, maybe because he’s tired, he sends the disciples out two by two, and they are catapulted Simba-style into a world unknown to do God’s work. He tells them to take nothing with them, but to depend on others for everything.

Unable to be dependent even on the people from his own hometown, Jesus sends the disciples out with just each other to depend on the people they serve. They may have felt catapulted into worlds unknown indeed, but the lesson seems pretty clear to me: if you’re going to preach love and Good News, you have to trust each other and the world around you — even with little to no evidence that doing so is a safe bet.

Over the past couple of years, thanks to you guys, I’ve learned that one of the proper ways to spend the Fourth of July in western Massachusetts is at Tanglewood with musician and songwriter and Mass native James Taylor. In an age where we all feel like we in America living in a powder keg and giving off sparks, where we can’t agree with our neighbors on basic reality, where we ourselves feel thrown into the wild wild world, James’s voice singing “America the Beautiful” is soothing, I hope, for everyone. I always leave feeling like I’ve been to church: loved, inspired, and challenged.

One such song’s lyrics, highly appropriate for the Fourth of July in any age, but perhaps especially this one, go like this:

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound…” (1) [Listen here]

In a world filled with division and anxiety, one that, thanks to the Internet, functions (as one of my favorite podcasters says) as a perpetually furious small town, we are bound. We are bound to each other and to the people we’re supposed to love and serve. 

And like it or not, that includes everybody. Including the ones you block from your Facebook feed and the ones who hate people like you. 

Some of us, due to various parts of our identities, are more acutely aware of this than others, but it’s true for all of us: no matter who you are, someone somewhere really doesn’t like people like you.

Still, we are bound and we are bound. 

This story about Jesus not being accepted in his own hometown and his advice to the disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” if a town doesn’t accept them hit me differently this year than it did three years ago. Three years ago, and three years before that, I had been quite focused on letting go, shaking that dust right off, and moving on — important skills, but not the only lesson this text has to offer. 

This year, I think we could do with a little less dust-shaking and a little more boundedness. 

Note: this is not to say that there aren’t still times to shake the dust off your feet and let go — when relationships turn abusive or are just sucking the life and the joy out of the rest of our lives, it may indeed be time to move on. I do not condone enduring abuse or yelling at someone you know right well will never listen to you. Jesus taught us how to shake that dust off, and chances are good that you’ve had to do it before already.

But for the rest of our relationships, the ones in which we still see hope: we are bound and we are bound.

This year, when I read this text about Jesus getting rejected in his own hometown, it occurred to me that (while not in actuality), but in some ways, America, and more narrowly, New England, is American Christianity’s hometown.

It would often seem that the church has lost any sense of relevance that it once had. That we’ve lost our voice. That no one really cares what the church says anymore and that we are the only chosen crazies who still care to show up on Sunday mornings. I don’t know how it seems to you, but often it feels like this is a world that the church has been launched into before we ever saw it coming. 

Yet, here we are: we are the church in a world that is quite jaded by church.

And we are bound and we are bound. 

We still have the Gospel and the world still needs Good News. 

And we still have each other.

It’s not just the church: at times we all feel like we’ve been cast into the wide wide world alone. We feel cast into a new job, cast into addiction, or cast into a difficult relationship, or cast into grief. We feel alone, so we feel like we have to explain and justify ourselves every step of the way, lest anyone think we’re not doing things correctly. 

But the truth is that Jesus already did the work of justifying us, and then Jesus gave us to each other. In a time of turmoil and division, when it seems like we’re living in the church’s hometown, where familiarity has bred contempt and then multiplied it, we are given to each other, and God is given to us as bread and water and wine and story. 

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us…
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound…” 

We do not know how this story ends or where the road leads. We only know that we have been cast into it — and that God is with us, and that, thank God, we are together. Amen.

1. James Taylor, “Shed a Little Light,” New Moon Shine (1991).

Holy Interruptions: Reflections on Camp and Jesus

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 5.52.27 PMUnplanned camp conversations.

Place: Camp Calumet, Freedom, NH
Photo credit: Pastor Jeff Stalley, First Lutheran Church, Ellington, CT

Lamentations 3:22-33
Mark 5:21-43

“There may yet be hope.” 

If you pull the from Lamentations line out of context, its words rattle down loudly through the ages from an ancient Hebrew scribe. If you pull the line out of context, it just may inspire you. 

But in its place in that text in Lamentations, it’s just an aside. It’s almost an interruption. Our translators have hidden it in parentheses. At first pass, it’s almost a throwaway, a thing you say when you don’t really believe it. When you’re assuming the worst of somebody and you just throw in, “But maybe they didn’t really mean to,” and then you continue trashing them. Or when you say, “We burned the cookies. I mean, maybe they’ll taste okay, but they look really black.” Or when you think a sports team in an important game is definitely going to lose but then you throw out, “But you never know, they may have a chance,” then you continue listing the reasons the team is headed towards the sports version of a buzzsaw. Or when you feel so beaten up by life or like a relationship is dead or like you’ve had your hopes crushed but you throw out, “But I mean, it may not be that bad; who knows what else might happen,” and then you continue as before your lament about the state of things.

The writer of Lamentations, for their part, opines,

“It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has  imposed it, to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), to give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults” (Lamentations 3:27-29).

That is the voice of an ancient Hebrew telling you how terrible his, or maybe her, childhood was. (1) This is the voice of a human being who lived long ago telling you that they had to get used to hardship early, because they’ve always lived in an occupied land ruled by cruel conquerors. (There may yet be hope.) They’ve seen nothing but violence since they were a child. 

“There may yet be hope,” in that context, is an interruption. 

I hate saying that about a phrase about hope, because we don’t usually see interruptions as useful. They break the flow of things and throw us off task. To be an interruption, usually, is a negative thing. We don’t want to interrupt someone when they’re working. We yell at people who interrupt us. We can even annoy ourselves with those little verbal throwaway interruptions. You can almost hear the writer of Lamentations sneer: “I mean, there may yet be hope, but…” 

But I just emerged from a place where people realize the positive value of interruptions.

I spent this past week at Camp Calumet, our synod’s camp and outdoor ministry in Freedom, New Hampshire. [Who’s been?] If you’ve never been to Calumet, you should probably find a way to go. Calumet serves campers of all ages in a variety of programs: resident camp for kids, day camp for kids, campsites and cabins for recreation, and a wide range of programs for adults and kids every season of the year. Our Savior’s has invested a lot of love in Calumet over the years. A lot of you sent your kids there, and a lot of you went there for various programs yourselves. Gail used to work there. Dan helped out this winter with their Lego Weekend. Shi was a CIT last summer, and Tyrese is a counselor this year and his brother was a counselor before him, and on and on and on.

We love Calumet in all kinds of ways: we send both our money and our people to support its programs.

You all got me involved in Calumet, and for the past three summers, you’ve graciously loaned me out to Calumet. In 2016, I was the chaplain for family camp, which serves people of all ages and engages them in various programs throughout the day and throughout the week during the summer. That year, I led Bible study for adults, preached and presided for their camp wide service with around 500 folks, and led devotions for kids. The next year, I was the chaplain for confirmation camp, leading prayer and helping teenagers learn about the sacraments as they claimed their faith for themselves. This year, I pulled double duty: I had the same responsibilities as before with the confirmands, but I also worked as chaplain for staff week, leading devotions every morning with staff, which included all staff, from teenagers just starting to work at camp to college students who work as counselors and program directors.

Working at Calumet is immersive, and it is relaxing and it is fun and it is hard work. At camp, everyone pulls their weight. At camp, everyone is respected and loved for exactly who they are, because quite frankly, you can’t spend that much time with any group of people and not respect them as a human. (Sometimes, I just want to send America to camp.)

Camp also teaches things — to both kids and adults — that can’t be learned in any classroom or at any continuing education event. This week, I got the benefit of sitting in for a lot of the staff week talks, as the counselors learned how to be good camp counselors. And boy did I learn a lot.

Things like the fact that encouraging someone and being specific about it can change a life. Dave Piper, one of the Calumet nation who spoke at staff week, called it “laser beam” encouragement: being specific and sincere. Laser beam encouragement is to say more to someone than just, “you’re awesome,” but to be specific and say instead, “I love how playful you are with your grandkids; they really hit the jackpot with you as a grandparent!” or “I can tell you really put a lot of effort into your presentation today, and it really paid off. Thank you.” It’s the kind of thing that lights up a life. And it starts with an interruption — taking a moment away from everything to stop someone and encourage them. 

I think one of the biggest lessons of camp is that the interruptions are sometimes the most important part of your day.

When I think back, in my adult life, the least helpful bosses and mentors and role models in my professional and personal life have been those who were too rigid: the ones who were unable to be flexible. Inflexibility and high standards were a hallmark of some the best disciplinarians of my childhood, and they taught me valuable lessons, but as an adult? Not so helpful. 

No, the best mentors of my adult life are the ones who taught me that, in the words of Lee Curtis, Indianapolis Episcopal priest and seminary classmate of mine: 

“The interruptions are the work.” (2)

My home pastor, Nancy, taught me this; Julian, bishop who ordained me as well as our own Bishop Jim are great at pants-seat flying. You know who else knows how to embrace an interruption? 

Jesus.

In the Gospel reading, he’s just saved the disciples’ very freaked out butts from a windstorm in a boat. Jesus was so exhausted on that voyage that the disciples had to wake him up to get him to calm the sea. Then Jesus gets to shore and he immediately has his space invaded by crowds of people including Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. This should be his archenemy. I imagine his disciples smirking imagining that Jesus was about to tell him off. Instead, Jesus listens and hears Jairus’s pain. Jairus’s daughter is sick. Mark says the girl is twelve years old, which is practically an adult in the ancient world, but by the tender way Jairus talks about her, we know she was still his little girl. 

Embracing the interruption with the utmost compassion, Jesus goes with Jairus. 

Just as he’s on his way to Jairus’s house, someone else comes crashing in — one desperate woman in need of healing. She touches his robe in hopes of being healed and he feels it. He could have been annoyed, (there may yet be hope), and he could have had his disciples drag her away. Instead he says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” 

As Jesus is mid-sentence, someone else interrupts to say to Jairus: “Don’t bother. I’m sorry to tell you, Jairus, but your daughter is dead. Let the teacher get on his way.” 

There may yet be hope.

You know how the story ends: the daughter is raised, and Jesus calls them to give her some food — because nobody appreciates food like Jesus.

Jesus embraces the interruptions in this passage from Mark, and the sick are healed and the dead are raised.

The interruptions are the work. Jesus teaches this, and so does camp.

Camp, especially when you’re leading a group, is about being super prepared for anything, including flying right by the seat of your pants. It’s about having a full plan and being ready to chuck that plan out the window because it rained or because a camper got sick or because somebody forgot to do something because they are a human. Being good at camp, I think, is about embracing the interruptions. 

It’s about stopping to talk to that thirteen year old kid that nobody listens to. You might change his life, or you might just help make him happy on a Thursday afternoon. It’s about saying “yes” to an invitation to kayak when you really want to nap and having your breath taken away by the beauty of the White Mountains over Ossipee Lake and how happy your heart is to be with people who love you and accept you. It’s about being caught in a storm on the lake and making friends at the next camp over because you had to get straight to shore to avoid the lightning.

At camp, and in life, it’s the interruptions that change your life. It’s in the interruptions that the sick are healed and the dead are raised and it’s in the interruptions where there may yet be hope, even in the midst of division and lament. Even when you can’t stand to watch the news. Even if you childhood sucked. There may yet be hope, and you may find that hope in an interruption, so keep your head up.

Embrace the interruptions. Find them holy. 

Because there may yet be hope after all. Amen.

1.  Tradition ascribes Lamentations to the prophet Jeremiah based on 2 Chronicles 35:25, Jeremiah’s place in Hebrew history, and his general gloominess, but there’s no reference to Jeremiah in the text of Lamentations, and the author’s identity is ultimately unknown.

2. The Rev. Canon Lee Curtis, “Work on the Way,” written for the Modern Metanoia blog, https://modernmetanoia.org/2018/06/18/proper-8b-work-on-the-way/