I LOOOOVE church camp!
I don’t like bugs and mud and snakes and frogs and lizards, but I love church camp.
Camp Walter Scott, the region’s church campgrounds, has these outdoor shelters called hogans. They are basically wooden bunkbeds with a roof and a floor. I will not sleep in the hogans. I thank God for the cabins at the camp.
It’s not necessarily the outdoors that I love about camp, as much as it is the seclusion. For one week, the directors, counselors, staff and campers leave behind the ways of the world. No phones, texting, video games, TVs, movies, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail. No running here and there trying to keep up with busy schedule. Nothing is competing for our attention. For one full week, we are offer our uninterrupted attention to God.
When the campers first arrive, it is a little chaotic getting youth to their sleeping areas, unpacked, name tags on, medicines checked in, and getting to know one another. Some campers are a little apprehensive to meet new people. In their shyness, they stick close to the group they came with.
By Tuesday morning, the youth are starting to form friendships with the others in their small groups and their bunkmates. Come Tuesday evening, everyone knows everyone. There is great laughter at dinner and everyone is singing their old favorite songs at campfire.
Wednesday can be a rough day. Youth have been living in very close quarters and may be getting a little grumpy with one another. Some of the boys need to be reminded about the value of showering regularly. The girls are reminded that they can’t get up at 5 am to fix their hair and put on makeup. Homesickness has kicked in. Counselors are tired, but we’re going to get through it. We’re half way there.
Come Thursday morning, we’re all too well aware that the end of the week is coming.
On Friday, counselors really begin to see how much the youth have changed in just one week. Their relationships with God have deepened. They have a greater knowledge of Scripture. Lasting friendships have been formed. They’ve learned a few new silly songs.
Saturday morning is difficult for everyone. No one wants the week to end. How can they not see their friends ‘til next summer? Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are exchanged. Hugs are shared. Tears are shed.
Everyone has had such a good time at camp that no one wants it to end. The week of camp comes to an end well before any of us are ready. Why is it that all good things come to an end before we’re ready?
Jesus’ followers weren’t ready for his ministry to come to an end.
This conversation in the Gospel of John between Jesus and the crowd marked the end of His ministry. He had spent three years preaching the Good News of God’s love, healing the sick, raising the dead, proclaiming salvation, casting out demons, and teaching his Disciples. More and more people believed. Thousands drew near to him. His ministry was really gaining momentum, even some Greeks were seeking him out.
Jesus knows the end had come. His statement, “Now is my soul troubled…shall I ask the Father to save me?” reminds us of Jesus’ hour of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when he cried out for God to take this cup from him. Jesus knew the end was near and what it meant.
The hour had come. This hour is the ultimate purpose of His ministry. He will judge the world and defeat the power of evil. In the previous chapter, we read about the plot to kill Jesus. He was a threat to the status quo and to the ruling class. The powers he came to defeat were going to destroy Him.
To still his troubled soul, God speaks from Heaven. Jesus had asked to glorify God and God audibly responds. This is the only time in the Gospel of John that it is written God spoke. God grants Jesus’ request to glorify Him. God had done it once, at Jesus’ birth, and will do it again, at His death. As we know from the incarnation of God born as the living Jesus of Nazareth, we know the glory of God will not be the easy way.
This final hour will be difficult. He speaks of it to the crowd to let them know what kind of death he was going to die. And, when he is lifted up, the glory of that moment will “draw all people” to Himself. Everyone will see the glory of God in the end.
The crowd was confused by what Jesus was saying. They asked, “How can the Son of Man be lifted up? Who is the Son of Man?” They had believed that the Messiah would remain forever. They must have been wondering, ‘If we’ve been waiting all this time for the Messiah, and we’ve seen all these great signs and miracles by Jesus, and we’ve heard his wonderful teaching, how can He now leave?’
Do all good things have to come to an end?
At Christmas time, we read about the coming reign of the almighty God. Isaiah 9: 6 – 7 says:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The Jews would have believed that the Messiah would restore the Kingdom of Israel and bring a reign of peace that would last forever. Just like the verses of Isaiah say: there will be no end of His peace, He will reign as the King of Israel forever.
The crowd can’t help but wonder: If Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of Man, where’s the kingdom of Israel? He’s still got work to do. Where does He think he’s going? His job isn’t finished.
The crowd can wonder about what Jesus calls His hour, because they don’t know the end of the story. They don’t know how it will end, but we do. Or do we?
We can’t say the work of the Messiah is done. Yes, he was crucified, died, was raised from the grave, and ascended to Heaven where He lives at the right hand of God and reigns forever and ever. Yet, we pray every Sunday, “Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” So, it’s done, but it’s not.
We live in a time between the Resurrection and Eternity. Many theologians describe it as ‘already, but not yet’. Christ has already defeated the grave when God raised Him from the dead, but we have not yet seen the Kingdom of God. We no longer have to fear death for we have inherited eternal life, but we still must die. We know there will be an end to death, but we grieve the loss of loved ones. We know there will be an end to hunger and despair, but we strive for justice. We haven’t yet experienced the reign of Christ where there is an end to our suffering and mourning, but we know it’s coming.
Christ’s hour has come, but it’s not finished. God has glorified Christ in the manger and at the Resurrection and He will do it again. It’s done, but it’s not the end.
Well, it’s the end of this sermon.