One of my fondest teenage memories is attending Camp Hayah, in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Mexico, where I was reared. We used to have young campers from all over the Diocese, as well as visitors from various Episcopal Dioceses in the United States who joined us every Summer. It was truly a diverse group of us, which represented different genders, races, ethnicities, socio-economic groups, and languages. Some spoke Spanish, some spoke English, and only a few spoke both of these languages. It didn't matter, We were just loving one another as He loves us!
Camp Hayah was not a regular Church Camp. It was a working camp. The only buildings were a makeshift kitchen in a one-room cabin and two outhouses, one for the girls and one for the guys. Other than the usual Bible Studies, prayer time, and swimming in the river, we did construction work in the heat of the Summer mornings in Northern Mexico. Talk about a team building activity! However, my favorite part of the day was the time we spent around the camp fire making a joyful noise unto The Lord. It was such a blessed experience to share each other's songs of praise in our respective home languages. It didn't matter if we knew or understood the meaning of the words, we were just loving one another as He loves us!
|Happy B-Day Ana|
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We will work with each other, we will work side by side.
We will work with each other, we will work side by side.
And we'll guard each man's dignity, and save each man's pride.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love!
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love!
This late 1960's Catholic folk song epitomized my camp fire experiences. As we sang it during the climax of our day, we were praising Him, regardless of our cultural, socio-economic, or other differences. We were just loving one another as He loves us!
So why is this loving one another so important? According to the Gospel of John 15, Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” It is only in His love that we can find true joy. Yes, we may find joy when having a glass of one of Dexter’s delightful wines, but that’s just temporary joy, a gratifying yet fleeting moment. True love and joy can only be experienced when we sacrifice for one another. Two perfect examples are Karen’s nursing friend, who would never let a patient die alone on her time, or the many teachers whom I’ve known to work through the weekend to ensure they plan the perfect lesson to reach each and every one of their students.
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Unfortunately, these are not always the types of examples we seem to be witnessing these days. It appears that we are living in a society that is threatened by divisiveness more and more each day. It's not just the color of our skin or our ethnicity like it used to be in the past, but our religious beliefs, our political views, and our stand on controversial issues that continue to tear us apart. What's more disturbing to me, is the violence that has triggered from all this divisiveness. Shootings, riots, and vicious character attacks by various groups, which often includes sports, political, and even religious leaders in our country, continue to go against what Jesus commissioned us to do. And it's coming from every side and/or point of view, so no one can point fingers. This is not my campfire experience, where we were just loving one another as He loves us.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, as friends of Jesus and bi-vocational ministers, we have a major challenge ahead of us. In today’s gospel, Jesus said, “I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” Did this ring a bell for you? It sure did to me, since I’ve questioned my calling a couple of times during the past year due to the stress of my multiple personal and professional responsibilities. However, after years of discernment, I am committed to bear the everlasting fruit of His love in everything I do, no matter how impossible it may seem at times.
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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the verb abide in the context of the gospel according to John means “to remain stable or fixed in a state.” Therefore, to abide in his love, we must follow Jesus’ example and welcome with open arms every person that walks into our churches. We may not agree with their points of view or lifestyles, but we need to foster the love of Christ. What’s more, we must reach out to our communities, and involve our parish members through programs such as Invite, Welcome, Connect. In addition, volunteering our services as hospital chaplains, battered women’s & children’s shelters volunteers, and community food pantries may also help us bear fruit of converted evangelized people. We must be the church that brought the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry’s father* to the Episcopal Church when he said, “Any church in which black folks and white folks drink out of the same cup knows something about a gospel that I want to be a part of.” This is the only way we will be able to recreate the love and joy that I experienced at Camp Hayah, which in turn can and will grow our churches. Now go take them to the campfire, and remember, it’s about just loving one another as He loves us. Amen!