Reading: Matthew 11: 16-30 (Click to read text)
Today is the day that we celebrate Camp Mount Luther's birthday. On June 30, 1963, the dedication of the camp occurred. Last year, we had a big celebration on this date to commemorate our 50th birthday.
Our Bible reading for today reminds us of how different generations interact. Lately, it seems, I've been thinking more about how things change from generation to generation. Additionally, I ask myself the question, "What does a certain generation teach or hand down to the next?" In this passage, we hear of those who are being disparaging to another generation.
But then we are reminded that God does not change from one generation to the next. I recently remarked to a friend that despite all the changes and decline we see in the church today, I am hopeful. As our summer staff studied this year's curriculum, we had theologically rich discussions. The younger generation cares about their faith and follows the same God my generation does. And it's the same God my parents worship, and their parents before then, and.... well, you get the idea.
Jesus reminds us to come to Him when our burdens are heavy and He will give us rest. It's something God's been doing for many generations. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: I Thessalonians 3: 9-13 (Click to read text)
This is a devotional for Advent written for our summer staff several years ago. We share it hear to remind our readers that this year at camp, on Mondays, we are "Living in Advent."
Those Tuesday afternoons—getting everybody ready for the overnight. Gotta make sure the campers have everything they need, “Don’t forget your toothbrush!” “Wear long pants.” "Do we have tarps? Cooking utensils? Matches—don’t forget the matches. Who’s bringing us our Gott?" (There might be goodies on top of the ice!) "Everybody ready? O.K. we’ll swing by the kitchen and pick up our food. Make sure there is enough foil."
It is always good to prepare for journeys, long or short. Whether it’s an overnight camping experience or a week at Chincoteague. It is best to make a list. Check things off. Double check it before you leave. Half-way to the Gap is no time to remember that everybody needs a water bottle.
What sort of preparations do we make for Christmas? Yeah, I know Christmas gifts and all that. Let me ask it another way: What preparations do we make for the Celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord? That makes a difference, doesn’t it? I think it does.
St. Paul in his thanksgiving for his friends at Thessalonica talks about relationships, abounding in love, strengthening hearts in holiness and becoming blameless. Not a bad list. I think it is a good thing for us to begin Advent in thanksgiving for all those who have nourished us along the way—including the staff of CML. We love family and friends deeply. Are there new ways for us to abound in love? How might we, as we celebrate Christ’s presence among us, work to be more holy and even reach to achieve blamelessness? That’s quite a stretch, don’t you think? --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to the Camp Mount Luther Staff
Reading: Psalm 13 (Click to read text)
“How long, O Lord will you forget me?” … “But I trusted in your steadfast love.”
Those are the book ends of Psalm 13. The Psalmist gives voice to those moments when we feel absolutely hopeless, pained, sorrowed, defeated and thus abandoned by God. Where are you when I really need you God?
In the end, God greets us with steadfast love. Sort of like my dog, Lucy. When I get home on Fridays after a week at camp, she meets me at the door, tail wagging, running around in excitement and lots of kisses when I put my face down to hers. Well, God’s love is better than that, but being greeted excitedly after a period of absence is sort of what the Psalmist reminds us about today.
The question, however, is, “If you feel distanced from God, who moved?” In those whiney moments we have in life, God doesn’t go away. (I do wonder if God ever wants to send us cheese in those moments. J) The Lord stays by our side.
Sometimes we don’t get to renew our faith without some moaning, groaning and doubting. So, go ahead and whine. In the end, God prevails with steadfast love that causes us to sing.
Our God is an awesome God.
He reigns from heaven above,
With wisdom, power and love.
Our God is an awesome God.
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: Romans 6: 12-23 (Click to read text)
but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. -- Martin Luther
You can be sure I was shocked when I saw these two big words on t-shirts at the Lutheran Campus Center at IUP. Good thing I got up close enough to read the fine print and stuck around long enough for some theological explanation. Otherwise, this girl may have never given that bunch a second chance!
Yes, thank goodness Martin Luther explained himself after his two, might I say, BOLD words! Romans Chapter 6 also clears up the matter more with:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!... You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.... For the wages of sun is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6: 15, 18, 23
(Maybe they could have put that on the back of the t-shirt. Just saying.) --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, help us to believe and rejoice in Christ boldly. We are thankful He is victorious over sin, death, and the world. Amen.
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on October 24, 2013.
Reading: Genesis 22: 1-14 (Click to read text)
Today, take a few moments to think how strong your faith in God is. Would you be able to do what Abraham did? Would you trust in God to do whatever He asked you to do?
Author and Preacher Charles Stanley once spoke about lessons he learned from his grandfather. The first and most important lesson he learned was to obey God. His grandfather told him that if God says to run your head into a brick wall, you should do it because God will most likely make a hole for you before your head hits.
In Biblical times, there were many men who did just as God asked: Noah, Moses, and Abraham come to mind. Whatever God required of them to do, they did. Their faith was strong.
Again, how strong is your faith? Will you do whatever God asks you to do? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Matthew 10: 40-42 (Click to read text)
During staff training, we talk a lot about hospitality. We teach our staff how to welcome our new campers and their parents. We talk about the importance of first impressions and the types of things that help people feel more comfortable about a new situation.
Often, I remind our staff that when we welcome strangers, we are welcoming Christ. This verse reminds us of that, too. We should welcome the stranger because it like welcoming angels in our midst. I know there have been times when I've reminded myself that the way I am treating others, especially when I first meet them, should be the way I would treat Jesus if he walked up to me.
Actually, I would walk up to him first. That's another tip we tell our staff as they practice Christian hospitality. You never know who you might be welcoming when a new person arrives in your midst! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Matthew 11:28-29
Sometimes I feel so tired. I try very hard to balance God, family, work, and life in general. But sometimes I simply try and do too much. Sometimes the bad things that happen to loved ones and to me just bring me down. While physical rest is an absolute necessity for a healthy life, spiritual rest can be necessary too. For example, taking a few quiet moments from time to time to read or a devotion could be just what you need to relax, take a breather, and rejuvenate.
“The Message: the Bible in Contemporary Language” offers an idiomatic translation of Matthew 11: 28-19. It reads as follows. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
When things become too much for us, it is comforting to know that God never gets tired, and that Jesus is there to help us put things in perspective. --Christine Conz Moll, former Mount Luther camper
Closing: Discuss with others how it feels to know that Jesus can “show you how to take a real rest.”
Prayer: Dear God, help us remember Jesus' promise to help us find rest for our weary souls. In His name we pray. Amen.
Reading: Psalm 86 (Click to read text)
I find that sometimes when a situation gets me down, I need to talk about it to help me process and reflect. Sometimes, when no one is around, I find myself praying to help me do just that.
In today's Psalm, we read, "Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication. In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me." It's comforting to know that God listens when we cry out, especially in times when we may not see or feel God's presence.
The Psalms are full of these same cries. The next time you feel like you have nowhere to turn, turn to God or perhaps spend some time reading the Psalms. I bet if you look hard enough, you will see or feel God, even in the worst of situations. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Romans 6: 1b-11 (Click to read text)
Verses 3-5 of Romans 6 are underlined in the Bible I use for writing GROW Time devotions. This Bible also happens to be the one I received at Camp Mount Luther in the summer of 2006. Everyone who came to camp that summer got a Bible and mine became my study Bible for Family Camp every year after. It is the one I always pack and use sitting in a circle on the downstairs back porch of Evergreen.
So, most likely, these verses were the focus of a morning Bible Study at Family Camp - baptismal waters, forgiveness, renewal, resurrection. Wish I had jotted down some notes in the margin. That would have helped with writing this devotion! Alas, no. But what means most to me is that sometime in the past, these verses were read, discussed and underlined at Camp Mount Luther. That, CML friends, truly is a blessing to me.
The 2014 summer camp season has begun! May many Bibles be opened, read and marked up. Outdoor ministry has a way of grounding us in our faith on ground that becomes dear to our hearts. What we experience and learn then goes with us always and everywhere! Thanks be to God! --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, return us over and over to those baptismal waters (and to camp!) for forgiveness, refreshment and renewal. Amen.
Reading: Genesis 21:8-21 (Click to read text)
Our text for today starts out telling us that the child grew and was weaned. My son is slowly getting weaned. We know that in a few months, he'll stop nursing. In many ways I am anxious for that. That will give us a little more independence, especially at nighttime when nursing is still a part of his bedtime routine. But a part of me also knows that when we get to that point, we will pass into a new phase of his childhood, which means that he is growing up. Part of me would love to keep him at this stage.
I'm writing this on the second full day of staff training. Since our arrival for training, we've had some very good theological discussions. Today, we talked about how we see growth in ourselves and others. In the short time we've been together, I've seen growth in these young adults who will work at camp this summer. And I've thought about the fact that their parents have raised them, weaned them, and passed them off into new phases of their lives. And they did that with the confidence that others will help them to continue to grow as a person.
We see that in our Bible story for today. Hagar and her son, Abraham's offspring, are send off with the confidence that God will be with them and help them. I'm sure they grew as people, too, because of that experience. When there are people in our lives who move into other phases, we can be confident of God's presence in their lives and hopeful that they will continue to grow, even if we are not with them. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Pray for someone who is moving into a new phase of life.
Reading: Matthew 10: 24-39 (Click to read text)
The Camp Mount Luther Summer Ministry has finished their orientation. The real training begins now. This is our first full day with campers for Summer 2014. Lots of information has been shared with our staff, drills have been conducted, and curriculum has been studied. Now, they get to put into practice what they have learned.
One of the mantras of my time as director has been that I will never ask anyone to do something that I will not try to do myself. Meaning, if a toilet needs plunged, I'll do it. I've cleaned up messy clothes, put away sports equipment, and dealt with hurt campers. I don't feel I am above anyone else when it comes to do what is necessary to run a successful camping program.
Jesus reminds us of that lesson in this Sunday's Gospel reading. He says, "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master." In order to do God's work, we need to get down and dirty with one another and work as a team. That is what our summer staff will be doing for the next eight weeks.
Pray for them as they do this important faith formation work. There will be times when we won't want to plunge the toilet, clean up messy clothes, or deal with hurt campers, but God will give us the strength to do just that. And God will be by our side as we work in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania this summer. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: John 14: 9-21 (Click to read text)
Summer has returned to Pennsylvania! For teachers like my husband and me, this means a flexible schedule, time with the family, and lots of local fresh produce. With the change of seasons comes the change in fresh fruit and vegetables too.
I enjoy food: local offerings, imported treats, and everything in between. When I teach Sunday School, I like to share food with my students and I try to make that food lesson-specific. My ideas are not all original, but the food always goes over well! When our lesson was Matthew 4:19, we used pretzel fishing rods to “fish” for goldfish crackers with ranch dip “bait.” We've made soft pretzels during Lent and discussed the symbolism of the “praying arms” of the twisted middle. For Easter, we made resurrection rolls. We have decorated cupcakes for Pentecost, the birthday of the church.
At the end of May this year, our Sunday School lesson was based on the scripture at the beginning of this essay. Well, what food could possibly represent, “I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.”? The leader's book suggested a pomegranate. Unfortunately, pomegranates are not in season in Pennsylvania in May. I looked. And looked. But with pictures and our imaginations, the students and I managed to think about how the close-packed groups of seeds are gathered together inside the thick skin, like Christians may pray together, support one another, and worship together. Those seeds are juicy and red, and full of life--like we try to be. And they are kept safe and protected deep inside the fruit, just like God is in Jesus and Jesus is in us. Pomegranates have long been a symbol of new life. And through Jesus Christ, we are all given that gift of resurrection and new life.
So next winter, when you're longing for watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, and corn on the cob, maybe you'll see a shiny red pomegranate at the market, and remember how a pomegranate is not only a fascinating fruit imported from far away, but a symbol of the church as well. --Christine Conz Moll, former Mount Luther Camper
Closing: Discuss foods that can be symbols of Christianity.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to appreciate the bounty of the fields during these summer months. Help us to appreciate the foods we eat all year round, both for their taste, their health benefits, and even for their symbolism. In the name of the resurrected Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on August 25, 2013.
Reading: Psalm 8 (Click to read text)
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Then, take a few minutes and look at all the things that God has created. Touch objects near you, smell the aromas that fill the air. God does marvelous work, don’t you think?
God’s world is complex. When I think of creation and how intricate everything is and how everything works so well together, I am amazed and humbled. How people cannot believe in God by looking at creation is beyond me.
As you go through the coming days, look closely at creation. Decide how you can help to preserve our creation. So many people are doing things today, which are destroying God’s wonderful work. How can you be a good steward? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13 (Click to read text)
Today's reading is just three verses and they are titled: Final Greetings and Benediction. That's it! Mind you, they are at the end Paul's second letter to the people of Corinth and it was another lengthy letter at that. They must have really needed help. Do you ever wonder how much longer he could have gone on and on but just had to stop somewhere?
I am reminded of the things I called out as my children went out the door for school every morning. After the hugs and I love yous, there were the last words of wise advice, "Do your best!" "Make good choices!" Learn from your mistakes!" Put your best foot forward!" Be a good friend and good helper!" Be a good listener and a good learner!" Oh, how I hoped it all sunk in, probably much like Paul hoped.
So, how does Paul wrap it up? What did he hope sunk in? Read it again and you've got to agree, what more do you need to hear? Words of living in agreement and peace and a reminder the God of love and peace is with you. Greet each other kindly and, last but not least (in fact, perhaps most!), Paul referenced the Trinity - Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit - grace, love and communion.
Yes, that just about covers it. Thanks be to God! --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Turn Paul's final greeting and benediction to the people of Corinth into a prayer of your own.
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on April 4, 2013.
Reading: Genesis 1: 1- 2: 4a (Click to read text)
I was 15 years old, sitting in the woods, reflecting on what I was seeing when I wrote this poem about creation:
Beyond the trees so lovely,
The little birdie sings
As he watches the daybreak
Fluttering his wings.
God has painted a picture
For all of us to buy
Not with money or words
But only if we try.
I also recently found this poem that I wrote. I’m not sure when or why, but it also speaks of God’s creation:
At the start there was nothing
Except for God, who was the king
God said let there be no more void
So, suddenly light was employed
The heavens next were in the sky
But we don’t really know why
Then next came plants, the moon, and stars
But it would be centuries before we’d have cars
Leviathan swam in the big blue sea
On the earth roamed the animals and the bumble bee
With all this stuff God had a plan
God decided to create man
But man was lonely, he needed a mate
Woman came to procreate
God created and now we say
Let’s take care of it every day!
Creation is meant to be enjoyed. In this first chapter of Genesis, we see God creating and saying, “It is good.” We are to enjoy our surroundings today and everyday.
God’s Word is also like creation. We should enjoy it each and every day. Sometimes, like gnats and flies and other pieces of God’s creation, we may not totally understand scripture. But, we should look to God in everything. What a comforting thought to help us as we celebrate not only creation but God’s living Word.
--Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Pray the following prayer. Lord, may your Spirit be my guide as I celebrate and take care of your creation. Thank you for all you have made for me. You are good all the time! Amen.
Reading: Matthew 28:16-20 (Click to read text)
The summer staff of Camp Mount Luther continues training for the 2014 camping season. We finish up this Friday. We take seriously Jesus’ commission of making disciples and teaching. Nor do we neglect our own growth in faith. We worship Jesus even in the midst of doubt and faith struggles. And through it all we claim Jesus’ promise to be with us.
As we did last Monday, we pray for you today. That you may grow in faith and most importantly that you know Christ’s presence. Have a mountain top experience today.
Again we ask for your prayers that our training goes well, that we are safe, that God strengthens us in our faith and that we know the presence of Christ. In other words, pray that we, too, have a mountain top experience today. --Camp Mount Luther’s 2014 Summer Staff
Reading: John 14: 1-4 (Click to read text)
I first became overly familiar with this passage while preparing for my brother's funeral. He died last April when he was 39 years old. In my grief and confusion, I asked the pastor over and over again, “Where is my brother now that he is no longer here with us?” I was patiently reminded, over and over again, that Jesus said, “There are many rooms in my Father's house....And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.”
I think about my “little” brother all the time and as I work through the grief of his passing, I sometimes console myself by imagining him up in heaven together with all our loved ones who have already died. I remember that Jesus told his friends--and by extension me and you--that we should not let our hearts be troubled. He's preparing a place for us. And we will be where He is. --Christine Conz Moll, former Mount Luther camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, help us remember Jesus' promise about our place in heaven. Remind us, especially when a loved one dies, that we do not need to be worried and upset; we should not let our hearts be troubled because your house has many rooms and your son is preparing a place for each of us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b (Click to read text)
I’ve recently heard more about meditation and how it can help individuals lead a more balanced life. Dan Harris, an ABC News person, recently wrote about a book called “10 Percent Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head” about meditation helped him overcome some anxiety problems after he had an on-air panic attack. He claims that meditation can make you happier.
But how can we make meditation meaningful? I think meditation works well when you think of it theologically. For instance, time spent in meditation could be time spent reflecting on three things:
I admit I’m not one who often takes time to stop, be quiet, and meditate. But the more I read about it and hear how it changes lives, the more I think there is value in that practice. Maybe Dan Harris is right- meditation can make you ten percent happier! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: I Corinthians 12: 3b-13 (Click to read text)
The body needs an eye, and the eye needs a body. Think about this: An eyeless body can cope but a bodyless eye cannot. You can get along in life without eyes. You will need to make adjustments, rely on other senses and depend on friends and or perhaps a seeing-eye dog for extra help. You can manage but you will still miss the visual part of our world.
Think again then, an eyeless body can cope, but a bodyless eye cannot. Eyes detached from a body are lifeless and do not function or serve their purpose. Eyes need a body to bring them blood and receive nerve impulses.
The beginning of our reading is more about spiritual gifts. It is the last couple verses that start into One Body with Many Members (Parts). Still, the whole chapter together reminds us of our many and varied gifts; our many and varied purposes. Every part makes a significant contribution to the whole. When a gift or a part is missing, the whole is lacking something. Likewise, a gift or a part all by itself cannot function to its fullest.
Now think about Paul's list of spiritual gifts. Which are prominent in your church? Which are overlooked? How do you fit in? How does everyone fit in? --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Reading: Acts 2:1-21 (Click to read text)
When the Spirit of God is first introduced in the Genesis creation stories we encounter the Hebrew word RUACH: wind, spirit, breath. It swept across the earth. And we hear of that wind again in today’s scripture “a sound like the rush of a violent wind.” And, Luke tell us, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
How might we experience the Holy Spirit today? I hope there is a breeze (not a violent wind) to remind us that the Holy Spirit stirs among us.
Sing with me:
Spirit, Spirit of gentleness, blow through the wilderness calling and free;
Spirit, Spirit of restlessness, stir me from placidness, wind, wind on the sea.
(With One Voice 684, Evangelical Lutheran Worship 396)
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Reading: John 20:19-23 (Click to read text)
In today’s text, the resurrected Jesus breaths on the disciples and gives then the Holy Spirit. Here the Greek word for spirit is pneuma. When Jesus first introduces the Holy Spirit to the disciples in chapter 14 of John He uses the Greek word parakletos. I was reminded recently that the basic meaning of that word is “come along side another.”
Today is the first full day of staff training at Camp Mount Luther. We need to know that God comes along beside us. We pray that you know that God is by your side this day.
The summer staff of Camp Mount Luther asks for you prayers today. Please pray that we experience God coming along side each of us and all of us as a staff.
The Summer Staff of Camp Mount Luther: Chad, Charlene, Jim, Arthur, Maria, Adam, Ryan, BrookeLynn, Nicole, Ty, Olivia, Becca, Amber, Samantha, Tara, James, Zachary, Kyle, Ed, Althea, Maura, Ann, Kathryn, Wanda, Tom, and Linda.
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to the Camp Mount Luther Summer Staff
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