Saturday, August 28, 2010

NMCB (SeaBees) 28

I have some new brothers and sisters. All I did was try to give.
As I walked into lunch the other day, I was followed by troops from NMCB28 (Navy SeaBees). I had one of those nudges from God that reminded me I had a great opportunity to share my appreciation for their work, and to let these fine ladies and gentlemen know that someone outside of the military is looking out for them, and cares for them as well.
As the waitress came to seat me and my cohorts for lunch (Rob Paulus and my daughter Sophia), I told her to go ahead and bring me the check for the servicemen and women that came in for lunch. She double checked to make sure - and I said 15 would be about what I could cover. Slowly the checks began to trickle back to my table, with the waitress checking each time to make sure this was what I wanted to do. I confirmed that it was each time she came by.
As the counter began to clear of the servicemen and women, I was greeted by each one in turn taking a moment to say thank you. I was frustrated that the waitress had told them I had done this. I was doing it because I could, and because it seemed the right thing to do.
(Of course, I had the reminder later that giving is hardwired in our brains to trigger the same emotional/psychological response as other pleasurable acts - like eating, laughter, and sex)
As the troops began to find their way out the door one of the men came to me and said that he would like to do something for me, as I had been so generous to them. I deferred and told him that they had already done something for me, as they were serving their country in this way. He continued and offered a letter from their commander, still to come, and he handed me a coin.
I took it in thanks, and began to look it over. Sophia, then “want it” and so I handed it to her to look over for herself. One of the servicemen at the counter next to me gasped for breath and his eyes went wide, as she fumbled it to the floor. He asked if I knew the significance of such a coin. I had to admit that I did not. He proceeded to tell me a condensed version of this story.

Air warfare was a new phenomenon during World War I. When the Army created flying squadrons they were manned with volunteer pilots from every walk of civilian life. While some of the early pilots came from working class or rural backgrounds, many were wealthy college students who withdrew from classes in the middle of the year, drawn by the adventure and romance of the new form of warfare.

As the legend goes, one such student, a wealthy lieutenant, ordered small, solid-bronze medallions (or coins) struck, which he then presented to the other pilots in his squadron as mementos of their service together. The coin was gold-plated, bore the squadron’s insignia, and was quite valuable. One of the pilots in the squadron, who had never owned anything like the coin, placed it in a leather pouch he wore around his neck for safekeeping. A short while later, this pilot’s aircraft was heavily damaged by ground fire (other sources claim it was an aerial dogfight), forcing him to land behind enemy lines and allowing him to be captured by the Germans. The Germans confiscated the personal belongings from his pockets, but they didn’t catch the leather pouch around his neck. On his way to a permanent prisoner of warfacility, he was held overnight in a small German-held French village near the front. During the night, the town was bombarded by the British, creating enough confusion to allow the pilot to escape.

The pilot avoided German patrols by donning civilian attire, but all of his identification had been confiscated so he had no way to prove his identity. With great difficulty, he crept across no-man’s land and made contact with a French patrol. Unfortunately for him, the French had been on the lookout for German saboteurs dressed as civilians. The French mistook the American pilot for a German saboteur and immediately prepared to execute him.

Desperate to prove his allegiance and without any identification, the pilot pulled out the coin from his leather pouch and showed it to his French captors. One of the Frenchmen recognized the unit insignia on the coin and delayed the execution long enough to confirm the pilot's identity.

Once the pilot safely returned to his squadron, it became a tradition for all members to carry their coin at all times. To ensure compliance, the pilots would challenge each other to produce the coin. If the challenged couldn’t produce the coin, he was required to buy a drink of choice for the challenger; if the challenged could produce the coin, the challenger would purchase the drink. ( Wikipedia )

I commented that maybe that was why I had to buy this round of lunches for the troops, I didn’t have a coin. I was therefore grateful to have one now. I know that someone thinks of me as one of his own and would protect me.
Upon further reflection I realized that maybe for the sake of my life I ought to carry this coin. I can’t help but think of how that directly correlates to my life in Jesus Christ. Just by carrying his cross each and every day, my life is protected.
I wasn’t done learning lessons from this interaction, as I heard more of the story of the coin later in the week.
The history unit commanders giving their solders coins goes as far back as at least ancient Egypt. Records indicate that the ancient Egyptians were given golden bees or flies for individual acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. An accumulation of these "flies and bees" entitled the recipient to receive land, goods, and elevated status within the Egyptian society.
The Roman Legions routinely minted and distributed commemorative coins and medals for members who participated in various campaigns and battles. History has indicated that the Romans actually used the occupying legion or units logo as the coin of the realm. These coins were used to purchase goods and services within the occupied jurisdiction.( )
The rest of that story was that a soldier going off to war might hand one of his brothers-in-arms his coin as a challenge to care for the leaving soldier’s family should he fail to return. In that moment, I realized I was now responsible for any in that unit, should they fail to return. And, truth be told, I did all of the payment for the lunches in the name of the church, and so I by that turn indebted you all in like manner. I have since set my Google Alerts to monitor any headlines that mention the NMCB28 unit of the Navy, that I might keep up-to-date with what happens to these men and women. I have a responsibility to care for them and their families. I have some new family members.
Not surprisingly, I know that I have accepted just such coins from every member of the United Methodist Church, and the congregations I serve, in the name of Jesus Christ. I have a huge extended family, and taking care of each one is quite an expectation, but one I take up willingly and to the best of my ability.
So, here’s to my brothers and sisters - those in my family, those in Christ, and those I now have by way of the NMCB28.

For reference, here is an image of the front of the NMCB28 Challenge Coin.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Chicken or The Egg

I have been watching the statistics roll through about clergy health. The articles linked come from a variety of sources, and some different studies. Much of the latest turmoil seems to stem from The Clergy Health Initiative from Duke University - probably because it hits home with United Methodists in a new way.

One of the items I have not seen detail for is which came first, the chicken or the egg... put differently:

The cynic in me is beginning to wonder at the statistics we keep seeing. As a clergy person I am still concerned. I wonder how many of the conditions were pre-existing when someone came into ministry. The one that triggered that thought for me was the "asthma" question. I was diagnosed at 6 months, so I can't even say it was a product of my calling (which I heard at about 6 years old).
Are sick people more likely to fill a call to ministry, where they feel the "limitations" will be less obvious, or problematic, than other fields?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Camp Recap

Summer Camp Recap

The Four Areas of Focus express the vision and yearnings of the people of The United Methodist Church. Over this quadrennium, the church will seek to focus the work of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world around these areas of ministry:
  • Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.
  • Engaging in ministry with the poor.
  • Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.
  • Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.

As I entered into our camp season this year, I was mindful of how camping connects directly with each of these Four Areas of Focus for the UMC.
  • Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.

Camping provides a unique place where students and adults get out of the norm and routine, which too often in the United States right now is spent sitting, in office chairs, classroom chairs, and in front of the TV/Computer/Video Game system. Without these other distractions, and some opportunities for new activities, and adventures - hiking, star gazing, archery, swimming and just getting from one end of camp to the other, the reality is we are increasing our exercise levels, and contributing to improving health for all involved. It may seem a little simplistic, but it does help.
  • Engaging in ministry with the poor.

When I think about camp, I see a very different demographic than most of our UMC congregations. Many of the children and youth who come to camp are sponsored by the local church. We also have offered camperships through the District, and offer other subsidies through our apportionments to provide a life-changing experience, and an encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, in our camps and retreats. We care for the poor, and engage in ministry.
Nowhere is this more obvious and abundant than through our Sierra Service Project program, whose story you will find elsewhere in this newsletter. By serving as a counselor this year in camp, I saw the poverty we are facing in “middle America”, and was overwhelmed by the loving provision of so many of our local churches in this District and others to ensure that all youth have a chance to experience nature, get away from home and meet Jesus Christ. As one Camp Director told me years ago - our goal in Camping is to offer them Christ. I would go one step farther, and say that we need to embody Christ, and teach the students who come to camp to do likewise.
  • Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.

I realize that when we talk about having camp in places that are over 100 years old, like Arroyo Grande Camp, and Colby, and Wrightwood, it may seem a little dubious to call this a new place for new people. But, I know that for many students in the UMC, this is the entry into the church, that allows them to find comfort and participation and a renewed vigor to be in the local church. For a few students each year, this is a new place, and they are new people. These students are invited by friends, or paid for by their grandparents or a neighbor to come to camp.
If we are sincere about revitalizing existing congregations, we need energy, and a focused drive to know Christ, and to be in relationship with one another. I know of no other way than camp to make this an intensive experience, and one that returns students and adult leaders back to the local church with a desire to see God moving mightily here as it did at camp. This revitalized energy can translate into ministry for the area, and for focusing our relationships through small groups, not unlike the “Family Groups” and “Work Groups” our students and adults experience during a week of Camp or Sierra Service Project.
  • Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.

20 years ago during Annual Conference one of our clergy asked the question about how many of the clergy had received their call to ministry while at camp. More than half of the clergy raised their hands. This past year, fewer than one-quarter of the 600 active clergy raised their hands when asked this question. We need to re-engage our youth and young adults in the life of ministry, and camp is a great place to do that. But, more than serving as a recruiting grounds for our clergy we need to be aware of the leadership we can grow in our own churches through camp.
This past year, as I went to Sr. High Camp, we were sharing Camp Wrightwood with the Jr. High Camp from the District as well. As we gathered for our first meal together, I had a startling realization, I had more than half of the Jr High counselors as campers when I was Dean of the camp less than 10 years ago. About one-quarter of the Sr. High Counselors had been folks I had trained, or again had as campers. I listened to the tales of what they are going on to do with their lives now that they are finishing up with college. One of the young ladies headed to Ghana on mission this year, while another was headed off to work on her Psychology degree to help those in need. A couple have since gone into ministry, either in the youth ranks, or looking more seriously at serving as an Ordained member of the clergy. Not only are these former campers of mine growing up, but they are leading the church.

I have to admit that when I think about what Camp is about, and what I want to do with our youth and adult leaders during a week of camp, I want to introduce them to Jesus Christ all over again, that they might have a living encounter with the Risen Christ. I want to expose them to a self-sufficiency they may not have realized about themselves, which in turn helps combat the desire to own and control as much as possible, making life about service to others, rather than living for self. I help to create an environment where each student and counselor knows love and compassion, that they may see one another as people, and not as defined by race or class, to ensure ministry with the poor will be one in which the relationship comes before the service provided. I want them to feel welcome, that they might welcome others. I strive to provide an arena in which each student and leader has a chance to lead, so that they may grow more self-assured, and self-aware, that they may be able to go home and lead the churches they are participants into a revitalized life. In short, I want them to go home, living the Four Focus Areas of the UMC. Thank you for helping me to work with our youth in such a way, and supporting our camp and retreat ministries in real and meaningful ways, with your participation, your financial support, and your compassion for me and others who go to give with our time. We grow stronger churches when we see the church extended beyond our own walls to reach all kinds of people.

David Camphouse

Thursday, August 05, 2010

For Whom the Church?

In each new generation there is a hue and cry to begin to admit those who "are not" into the church. I think back to the formation of the church, and Paul, with the inclusion of Gentiles. We have faced this question in each generation. Lately, we have asked the question of Slaves, Women, Asians, Blacks (yes there was a difference between Slaves and Blacks in this scenario), and now whither the Homosexual.

All of these arguments seem to be about who can and cannot be followers of Christ, and whether the Scriptures are for or against particular persons. I believe that all can be followers of Christ. And, let's be honest the Scriptures are against us all, as to whether or not we have sinned, or have the ability to be completely faithful all the time.

None of us can measure up. In that way I really do wonder at what we think these arguments about who can be in are really about. I tend to find that it has to do with our own levels of comfort. Whether those are issues we are uncomfortable within ourselves, or as matters that we don't want to fight the wave of current reality around us, I can never be entirely certain.

But, I will say this, that as far as drawing a circle or line as to who can come to church I am never going to draw that line. I understand God to be a God who invites us all to the table. Where we might want to fault one person for a particular kind of sin, we have our own sins to confront. I am a firm believer, that given access to the Scriptures, to faithful community that cares about each of us individually, and invites to participate in the life of Christ, that the Holy Spirit will do what it does best, which is transform us into the very image of God.

The amazing thing for me is that the transformation that occurs is very rarely in the shape or form I want it to become, but more a matter of watching what John Wesley referred to as, "being perfected in love".

So, here's to loving more, welcoming more people to the church, and letting God do God's work, without my interference.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Some Reference Notes

I want to share some of the reference notes from the sermon on Paul this morning.

I have to admit I have stolen the outline of my series on Paul from Adam Hamilton's series, basing my sermons on Adam's chosen scriptures. I admit that I do not think this much different than using the Revised Common Lectionary for choosing texts. I have not however stolen Adam's sermons for my own.

This morning I preached on the texts: Acts 22:1-3; Philippians 3:5

I preached a little about Paul's background, as a Jew, born a Hebrew of Hebrews from the tribe of Benjamin and in Tarsus of Cilicia.

Some of the notes I used came from these sites:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Gamliel I)

This article is about Gamaliel the Elder. For other individuals and uses see Gamaliel (disambiguation)

Gamaliel the Elder English pronunciation: /ɡəˈmeɪljəl/,[1] or Rabbi Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the mid first century. He was the grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder, and died twenty years before the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. He fathered a son, whom he calledSimeon, after his father's name[2], and a daughter, whose daughter (i.e., Gamaliel's granddaughter) married a priest named Simon ben Nathanael[3]. The nameGamaliel is the Greek form of the Hebrew name meaning reward of God.

In the Christian tradition, Gamaliel is celebrated as a Pharisee doctor of Jewish Law, who was the teacher of Paul the Apostle[4]; The Book of Acts portrays Gamaliel as a man of great respect[5].

The Role of the Rabbi Every first-century Jew knew that the Scriptures had authority over all aspects of life. God may have been a mystery to them, but behavior was not. Furthermore, it was scrupulous behavior, not the condition of your heart that defined a “righteous” person. Thus, many Jews had a desire to honor God by doing all the right things. In the world of Pharisaism, rabbis were the teachers who had been given the authoritative role to interpret God’s Word for the living of a righteous life – defining what behavior would or would not please God.

Willing Submission to Authority If a rabbi ultimately agreed to a would-be-disciple’s request, and allowed him to become a disciple, the disciple-to-be agreed to totally submit to the rabbi’s authority in all areas of interpreting the Scriptures for his life. This was a cultural given for all observant Jewish young men – something each truly wanted to do. As a result, each disciple came to a rabbinic relationship with a desire and a willingness to do just that - surrender to the authority of God’s Word as interpreted by his Rabbi’s view of Scripture.

Wresting with the Word of God Yeshivas, or groups of disciples intensely dialoging over an aspect of life and Scripture’s claim on it, was a standard part of rabbinic teaching methodology. Studying their rabbi’s view of Scripture and wrestling with the texts to comprehend God’s way for the conduct of their life was the main priority of a disciple and the yeshiva experience. Since all disciples have memorized most, if not all of their Hebrew Scriptures in preparation for their Bar Mitzvahs at age 13, the issue was not what God’s word said, rather what did it mean and how was it to be lived out.

Real Life Questions Life questions were the causative factors in searching the Scriptures for authoritative direction. For example, everyone knew about the broad “no work” injunction regarding the Sabbath. But how should that command work itself out in specific terms? Thus, a real-life question regarding Sabbath observance might be, “May I light a candle on the Sabbath?” Or, “How many candles may I light on the Sabbath?” A real-life question regarding marriage might be, “Can I divorce my wife if…” A real-life question regarding tax collectors would be, “If I know my taxes are going to oppress our people, should I pay them?” The rabbi would authoritatively address such daily practical questions concerning righteous living and that response was understood as coming through Scripture as defined and interpreted by the rabbi.

As part of this how-should-we-live interactive process, the disciples would debate various rabbinic interpretations of the texts pertaining to a real life issue. This might involve weeks of dialogue and debate, for the rabbis were in no hurry to resolve these issues and questions. However, when the rabbi ultimately did declare his authoritative interpretation on an issue, all further debate ceased. His declared interpretation was now known and therefore binding on his disciples’ lives for the rest of their days. As such, the rabbi was the matrix, the filter, the grid, through which every life issue flowed, as well as the lens through which every life issue was viewed.

Transparency Unlike many of our contemporary discipleship programs, there was no curriculum or agenda for this multi-year discipling experience. Rather it was a continual daily relational living experience where either the rabbi would ask questions of the disciple as he closely observed the disciple’s daily life, or the disciple would initiate a discussion by raising an issue or asking a question based on some aspect of his daily life.

In the dynamics of this intimate discipling community, all of a disciple’s daily life was observable by the rabbi. A disciple would expect the rabbi’s consistent and persistent question, “Why did you do that?” The emphasis was always on behavior formation, not just the imparting of wisdom and related interpretive information. In this interactive manner, the rabbis functioned to clear up gray areas of understanding and difficult areas of textual interpretation for their disciples. By always asking questions, the rabbis were concentrating on developing discernment in the mind of the disciple, not the imparting of “how to” formulas. Notions of three principles of prayer or four steps to prosperity would be abhorrent to a first-century rabbi

The Mishnah(1) describes the educational process for a young Jewish boy in Jesus? time.

At five years old [one is fit] for the Scripture, at ten years the Mishnah (oral Torah, interpretations) at thirteen for the fulfilling of the commandments, at fifteen the Talmud (making Rabbinic interpretations), at eighteen the bride-chamber, at twenty pursuing a vocation, at thirty for authority (able to teach others)