8th Sunday after Pentecost – July 30, 2017
This past weekend Lynn, myself and numerous other volunteers had the privilege of hanging out with the children of our church at VBS. I love having a time in the year set aside where I can spend time getting to know the youngest generation of our church. I left the weekend with lots of fond memories, new friends, a little more tired, and my patients tried a bit more.
During VBS we had the opportunity to teach the kids about how “Jesus is the Light!”
Our Scripture reading today, which was also our Scripture theme for VBS, talked about how Jesus is the light of the world. How Jesus came into the darkness and brought us life.
One of the aspects of Jesus’ life where He truly revealed himself as the light of the world that we looked at this weekend was how Jesus did not run away from social outcasts, instead He sought them out and showed them that their value is not defined by society. One of these groups were the lepers of society. This story is found in Luke chapter 17. Now in Biblical times when someone had leprosy they were no longer able to be part of normal society. They were forced to leave their homes and families to live outside of civilization in what was known as a leper colony. These colonies had to function in isolation where these sick people would go to live until they died. It was a pretty bleak existence. In our story there was a group of 10 lepers who called to Jesus for help as he was passing by. Jesus stopped and told these lepers to go and report themselves to the priests of the city. This was an odd request as it was an action that was only done when someone was healed. As the lepers obeyed and began their journey towards the priests they realized that they had been healed and were no longer lepers, they were no longer social rejects. These ten individuals had their lives dramatically changed forever. Jesus was truly the light of their lives.
Now when we think of how Jesus is the light of the world we often think about grand situations like this where Jesus intervened and the results drastically changed the other people’s lives forever. Jesus had a tendency to be a fairly grand light in this world. To put this into perspective I cannot imagine myself not living drastically different after having an encounter like this with Jesus Christ.
It would be very easy to leave the service on that note and tell everyone that Jesus is the light and that is all that there is to it and that he will reveal himself in a grand way to people in order to save them. However, that is not always the case. I want to bring up another piece of Scripture today. During the famous Sermon on the Mount found in the book of Matthew Jesus is recorded saying;
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
What a daunting task.. Jesus commanded us to take on this role of shinning His light in this world.. we are called to do the work of Jesus.. the things we do are supposed to lead others to give glory to God.. I don’t know about you, but for me, this si a scary thought. As often when I go home I can think of multiple times when my actions would not have caused people to glorify God..
The rest of my message today will be a bit different I want to spend some time telling about some experiences I have had in my life which have lead me to where I am today. I went to a Christian high school in small town Saskatchewan. I have always been a pretty well behaved kid, never got into much trouble, never did anything too illegal. But I bring this up because I left my Christian community after high school with a bad taste in my mouth. I was almost turned off of Christianity.. I found that the people that I knew who were looked up to and respected in the Christian community did not allow Christ’s light to shine through them. They were extremely well versed in Scripture and could inform you about all sorts of different Biblical ideologies. However, I felt like the knowledge of Scripture was there but that the actions were missing. Knowledge was greater than love.. Long story short when I left thigh school I made myself three promises. First that I would never attend Bible School, second that I would never work at a summer Bible camp and lastly that I would never work at a church.
Moving ahead in my life I ended up working at a Kids Bible Camp. My very first week of camp a meet a young boy who I will never forget. During the staff meeting that of my very first day at camp I was pulled aside and informed that I would have a boy in my cabin who would present some unique challenges.. I was brand new at this so I didn’t know what to expect or what to ask in order to help me be more prepared. The only other thing I was told about this special boy was that I would be able tell who he was the moment I saw him.. this terrified me. Over the next half an hour I was inspect every child with my eyes as they entered the camp wondering if they were my boy.. after a while I had allowed myself to relax as I convinced myself that he would just be n average kid and I probably wouldn’t be able to pick him out from a crowd.. right about that moment my friend entered the building. Dressed in bright yellow rubber boots, swimming trunks, a zip up hoody only half zipped up, chest barren, and a Mohawk.. he was the most terrifying 9 year old that I have ever seen.. I knew at that moment that that was my child.. that first week of my life as a cabin leader was truly trial by fire thanks to that boy. Numerous times a day a new idea would arise in his mind of how he could torture me, he would proceed by having a little grin grow on his face then look at me to ensure I was watching, then proceed. One of these times was during dinner when our eyes meet and he yelled, “SHANE IT’S BATH TIME!” as he yelled this he plunged his little orange stuffed fox into the juice pitcher at the table. Immediately I lept from my chair yelling what became my camp catchphrase, “MILES STOP! as he pulled the drenched fox out of the pitcher and began to spin it in the air flinging juice in every direction as he yelled, “Just need to dry him off now Shane!”
This boy and I spent the next 5 summers together. We became very close. A little bit more about this boy is that he had FAS, ADHD, and suffered from extreme anxiety. I had the opportunity to be with him when he decided that he wanted to become a Christian, I had the opportunity to be with him and hold him as he cried because he didn’t understand why he couldn’t do the same school work as his classmates, I had to opportunity to see him join the junior leadership team at camp, and I will never forget the day that he told me that he hopes that heaven is like camp, because camp is the greatest place on earth.. I still get to stay in touch with this boy, who is no longer a boy.
I wanted to share this part of my life as I think it is amazing how much God can use us to be His light despite ourselves.. I’m not sharing this story because I want to gloat about how great of an evangelist I am. Instead I tell this story to show how great our God is and how His light can truly shine through us despite what we say. I made myself a promise that I would never work at a summer camp, but God had his own plan. I firmly believe that God used me to show this boy how much God loved him. Just like the lepers from our story, Jesus is here for people in all aspects of society.
This weekend with VBS we had an amazing opportunity to shine the light of Jesus into the lives of these children. And this is not a one-time thing.. the work is not done. That boy and I were not great friends after that first week of camp, it was a long process. And the children of our church need us to continue to pour into them and provide them with a Christian community to grow in and eventually take charge of themselves.
What does that mean for us now then? As I stated earlier it is a very daunting task to be the light of the world for those living in darkness. Especially when most times that we try to be the light we fail. I want you to look at the children of our church, and think of the story I shared today as encouragement that Christ will shine through us despite our best efforts. I was very adamant that I would never work at a summer camp, or attend Bible school and work at a church, to which I ended up doing both in life.. our duty in life is to constantly point to Christ. I once heard a pastor describe himself as simply a beggar telling the other beggars where they can go to get their food. I believe that this is our duty in life, we can continually point to Christ and Christ will use us to be His light in this world. We may not always have as profound a story to tell as Jesus healing the lepers, but we have our own very important story in our church. Jesus has given us the responsibility to ensure that these children are raised in a community where His light shines.