As you can tell, I am back from my holidays and man alive did a lot happen to a lot of things since I left. We lost some trees behind the church, our parking lot has been patched up nice, and apparently I have an actual official reserved parking spot now. Things happened in out in the world too, a bunch of soccer players won a world cup, another bunch of soccer players were rescued out of a cave, and it’s really hot outside. A lot of things also happened in my family: my wife Winnie got a job, my son Wesley has his first loose tooth which is ready to fall out at any time now, and all my kids got their first taste of tent camping.
A lot of things happened for sure, but now that we’re all caught up, let’s talk about my family going camping.
If you read my blog post after I got back, you’ll know that the whole tent camp experience was an up and down affair. The thing with tent camping is that you either love it or you hate it. I have a lot of friends that love it. My sister and brother, whose families we went with, love it. They have top of the line gear, huge tents, all this stuff to make the experience as comfortable and fun and easy as it could possibly be. And others just hate it. They refuse to go. A friend of mine actually says that he works too hard to sleep on dirt. Truth be told, I kind of fit more in the latter category in that while I’ll clearly go tent camping, but it won’t ever really be my first choice for a relaxing get away. Because I enjoy sleeping in my own bed. I like showering in a clean shower stall and without wearing flip flops. I like falling asleep without the sound of my brother and brother-in-law’s snores ringing in my ears.
So I admit that I was a little bit anxious the night before as I was looking ahead to the unknown week ahead of us. I admit that I was kind of scared when we were packing up the car, driving out to Chilliwack, and then even setting up the tent. I actually was beginning to regret agreeing to go, as I was already really tired from my week at Confirmation Camp, as were my boys, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
But if you did read my blog post, you’ll also know that the trip ended up being a good one for me. I mentioned that it was relaxing in spite of the stress. It was fun in spite of the discomfort. It was rejuvenating in spite of me averaging less than 5 hours of sleep every night. And while I gave some reasons as to why the trip was good, I think the main one is that we were on this trip together, my family and my brother’s family and my sister’s family. We were a big group of 13. We were there together. Faced things together. Had fun together. I don’t know, maybe it’s because misery loves company, but with my brother-in-law’s camping expertise, my brother’s no-nonsense, get-it-done attitude, and my uncanny ability to set pretty much anything on fire, the trip really ended up being overall quite pleasant. We were able to lean on each other, rely on our combined strengths, and make the most of a trip that we honestly weren’t really looking forward to. All in all, it was a good trip.
This leaning and relying on each other though, that is what community is about. That is one of the points, if not the main point, of the Christian church and our faith. That is, what I believe, is going on in the readings today.
Very familiar story, of course, at least in the gospel lesson (not that really hard to pronounce first lesson), where Jesus feeds five thousand with 5 loaves and 2 fish. And following that story we get another familiar-ish one of Jesus walking on water and saving his disciples from a possible capsizing of their boat. Both of these stories display some sort of insurmountable need, a problem that might make your heart sink, perhaps a regret over a poorly thought out decision.
The disciples saw the record-breaking crowd that showed up that day to hear Jesus speak, and wondered how on earth they could feed them. That is a lot of people. So much that 6-month’s wages couldn’t even buy them enough food. Can get two engagement rings though, but not enough to feed all these people. So the problem seemed huge. Almost enough to prevent anyone from wanting to tackle it. But that didn’t stop Jesus. He gets the job done with a bit of fish and bread.
And then the disciples go and get on a boat when it was getting dark. I’m not sure how smart this was, probably not that smart judging how hard it was for me just to get back to our campsite from the washroom without a flashlight at around 11:30 at night. It was daaaark. So I would imagine that back in these days before flashlights and various other electronic sources of light, it would be really dark. Especially on the water. Especially at a time of year that storms at sea can happen. Sure, maybe the forecast didn’t call for a storm, like how that young soccer team got caught in a freak rainfall, but I would imagine rowing a boat in the dark wouldn’t be a good idea regardless. Man, and I thought not bringing food on a desert trip was dumb.
And so, another problem arose. Another situation that seemed impossible to tackle. Another storm rocking the boats of our lives making us question if we even have like half a brain to make good decisions to avoid these kinds of predicaments. It is at these points in our lives when we wonder what on earth were we thinking? Why did I speed up to make that light? Why did I try to get away with whatever I knew I would get caught doing? Why did I ever say that we’ll go tent camping with these kids?
Also, it’s at times like these when we rely on the strengths of others, when we lean on the support of our community, when we put our faith in the God that provides us with a love and peace that surpasses all understanding, that we see more clearly God’s hand at work in our lives. Sure, the disciples were probably scared out of their minds yet again, not sure how many times they found themselves in the middle of a storm, and they were still scared when they saw Jesus as they probably figured him to be a ghost. But as soon as they recognized him, as soon as they reached out to him, as soon as wanted him to abide with them, sit in their boat, be their companion on their journey, before they knew it they were where they wanted to be. Just as offering up 2 fish and 5 things of bread would seem ridiculous in hoping to make a dent in the amount of hunger they face, Jesus took what was there and did something with it.
This isn’t to say that all our problems and regrets will magically melt away when we have faith, or trust Jesus, or “let go and let God”. But it is to say that our problems become easier to tackle with the help and support of our community. The insurmountable predicaments that we sometimes find ourselves in become surmountable as we see how God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Our regrets don’t seem so bad when we see that God loves us in spite of whatever dumb decisions we could have made in the past.
The problem is when we don’t try. When we give up. When we look at what is in front of us, throw up our hands in frustration and call it quits. Because if Jesus can feed so many with just some loaves and a couple fish, then I am sure that together we can figure out a way to deal with whatever it is that needs to be dealt with. I’m sure that together we can find the peace to cope. I’m sure that together we can realise the love of God living within us, strengthening and empowering us to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.
But the key is together. Together in relationship, together in community, together as the body of Christ. Together in the Spirit who fills us and completes us and allows us to be more than we expect ourselves to be. See this is what the kingdom of God looks like, this is what Paul is so thankful and joyful about in the second reading, this is what Jesus is wanting to teach us when he was breaking and sharing the bread, that whenever we break that bread, whether literal or figurative, in remembrance of him, that we be reminded that we aren’t alone. We aren’t forgotten. We aren’t isolated from the rest of the kingdom to handle things on our own. Instead, we are invited and welcomed to join with all the saints to live in and serve this world that is in so much need.
You see, this is the kingdom. This is community. The work of God isn’t found in perfection or mind numbing happiness or utopic fantasies of how life should be, but instead, it is found in areas of our greatest need, in times when we are at our lowest points, in moments which we wish never happened. In those moments we can see the kingdom then supporting us, giving us peace, and welcoming us into community where we are seen and treated as equals, as God’s beloved children.
While life may be hard and we suffer from hard knocks and maybe hold regrets more often than we would want, the kingdom of God dwells in the difficultly to help us back up, revealing to us the unbreakable love of God, showing us that we are forgiven, redeemed, and invited back into God’s arms, in spite of what evil may surround us.
So as we together worship, as we together pray, as we together serve, as we together break bread, may we see God working in and around us, strengthening us with God’s high and wide, deep and strong love, empowering us to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, that whatever might come our way, we can rely on and trust on our community, the one body of Christ, to see us through, now and forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.