Dear Friends in Christ,
The theme this year at Camp Rejoice was “Fearless Faith: Courage in Community.” It is amazing each year to be part of this special community that forms over the course of a week. As graduated Senior Ashley Cochrane can tell you, the bonds and friendships formed at Camp Rejoice can extend far beyond the week at camp and become the basis for life long relationships.
This got me to thinking about that phrase “Courage in Community” and what it might mean for each of us. We live in troubled and troubling times. Social issues that we naively thought were solved decades ago are clearly still very much at the forefront. The tenor of public discourse both in person and in the media are reprehensible. As people of faith - as followers of Jesus Christ - we need to be the ones who stand up and speak out. That can be a scary - and dangerous - calling.
And that’s where we need each other. Our children need to be part of a Christian community that will give them the courage to stand up and speak out when necessary. We need to teach them what it means to have a “fearless faith” that will stand up to peer pressure, bullying, racist behavior or whatever evil they may confront in the world. We need to be the nurturing community they carry with them in their hearts as they grow to be adult disciples.
In order to do that, we, the already adult disciples, need to give them not only lessons but also examples of what fearless faith looks like. It is great to tell the children/youth, as we did at camp, and each other the great stories of fearless faith - about the faith of Abram and Sarai as they followed God’s call to leave their homes; about Ruth’s courage that enabled her to trust in God’s
providence; about Joseph and the courage he found to forgive the grievous wrongs done to him; to recount the story of Queen Esther who bravely risked her life by standing for justice, to tell the tale of about Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego finding the courage to stand up to the king even though it meant being thrown into a fiery furnace; or to try to convey the overwhelming obstacles faced by the early church as those first Christians tried to spread the good news of the gospel in a hostile and violent world. But simply telling these ancient stories is not enough - we need to live these stories today.
We can only do this by being together in community - by drawing courage from our meeting together - by standing up for justice even what it makes us unpopular. When Jesus began his ministry, he didn’t first talk about personal piety or deep faith - instead he stood bravely in the temple and read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” The result of his opening act was that people wanted to throw him off the hillside. But that didn't stop him.
Fearless Faith is more than just a concept or a way of thinking - it’s a way of living and acting. When we gather on Sundays, and when we go about our lives in the world, each of us has an opportunity to demonstrate “fearless faith”. Camp Rejoice is one week out of the year - a wonderful week, but just a week. We have the opportunity to be a Courageous Community the other 51 weeks, and to teach our children and each other what it means to have a “Fearless Faith” in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace -
Mary Jane & Gary