Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, faith, God, Inspiration, Jesus, Life, Religion, Spirituality, Wholeness
It had taken a two hot July days on a modified school bus with no air conditioning before we reached the swampy land in Merritt Island, Florida. My best friend Jesse and I had decided that we wanted to spend part of that summer before our senior year in high school in Hong Kong. The only way we knew how to travel to an exotic locale like was to visit it on a youth mission trip. So, we signed up to join a group of 30 other high school students who would live on a boat in Kowloon Harbor in Hong Kong for six weeks
Arriving at Teen Missions International’s boot camp we immediately began to pitch our tent in the humid mid-afternoon sun. Everyone wore thick work boots and I had on khakis and a short-sleeved dress shirt (one must look acceptable when traveling my mother had told me).
Growing up a strict fundamentalist home and attending a “Christian” private elementary school were good preparation for the jolt of living for the next two weeks in a severely regimented lifestyle. I had learned long before this experience when to keep one’s head down and to draw as little attention to oneself as possible. I think that it was akin to any other type of boot camps its discipline was physical and rigid.
It was a strict camp. For even the most innocuous violation of their long stream of rules a person could be awarded a “Special Blessing.” These were punishments that must be served during the meager amount of free time a person was given during the course of a day. This free time afforded us the luxury of either taking a daily shower or washing our cloths. Those who decided to skip these two activities went swimming in a watering hole that was notoriously filled with mosquitoes and gators. The punishment for special blessings involved an hours worth of labor in varying degrees of intensity. It could include peeling potatoes, cleaning latrines, folding tents, digging trenches and yes, even breaking rocks.
Between classes, manual labor, chapel and large rallies our time during the day was pretty much filled. Every morning and evening we were required to fulfill the most physically strenuous aspect of our two weeks in that camp. It was a treacherous obstacle course. This course was meant to promote teamwork in each individual team headed for another country. It did not matter when you finished the course as an individual, but your team must all finish the course under a particular amount of time.
First, each team climbed up and around Mt. Sinai a gigantic hill of tires. Second, each would climb Jacobs ladder, a large cargo net strung between two tall poles. Third, one-by-one we would swing on ropes over a giant pond called the Slough of Despond (a reference to Paul Bunyan’s book Pilgrim’s Progress). Finally, we would come to a 20-foot wall were the stopwatch was not clicked until each and every team member was over that wall. If your team found itself in last place your entire group was awarded a special blessing.
One thing I will say for that torturous summer was that I found great satisfaction in watching my team help, encourage and motivate each and every person to finish the course. We turned out to be quite a savvy bunch at completing the coarse, especially that wall. We worked together, as a unit, caring one another over that wall.
This is similar to our relationship with each other as a community of faith. Our interdependence on one another is important to recognize once we have been engrafted into this new covenant through Jesus Christ. Isolated and separated we are reminded that a fractured and diluted participation in following a path that Christ has begun in us is a recipe for compounding our suffering and loneliness. We are entwined in the friendship of the faithful. Our unity as a cohesive society of friends is not merely a platitude that we confess, but an essential act of faith in God. This is why one of Paul’s most compelling images of the church is of the body. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul extols that troubled church to care, encourage and love the weakest body part as much as the strongest. In this letter of Colossians that body is completed with Christ as its head.
Like the v shaped geese flying south during this cold season the head of this body is leading and helping us to navigate through the stiff winds of life. When we are functioning as that body here on earth we are moving forward in our ministry to each other. Only when we are in agreement on our essential interdependence through our relationship to Christ will we determine the importance of each other to our own growth and the world’s redemption. In helping others you might find that getting out of your own mind is exactly the help that you were looking for. It is in the action of helping others that we will begin to show visibly what has been hidden, that living Spirit of God.
It is not in holding on tightly to the beliefs of another, nor in the popular formula’s of a self help culture where we will find salvation, but in turning toward your neighbor and being present in their time of need.
Brennan Manning put’s it succinctly when he says:
“Overuse has rendered much of Christian language meaningless. When you encounter someone in grief or desolation, do not speak the biblical language known to you and available to you: stand with the wounded man or woman in his or her loneliness and brokenness, weep and mourn with them, and let your silence be your compassion.”
Right now we exist in only a partly fulfilled present with the hope that there will be a future completion. Our completion can only be realized in the healthy body dynamics resurrected in us as a community of faith. Let’s live into the promise of representing something greater than we could ever dream of on our own. Let’s work together in bringing about the reconciliation of all things!
Photo by Leondi
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