Reading: Matthew 7: 7-11
So often, we ask God for help, guidance, or for something else we want. And, when we ask, we usually hope (or plan) that God will answer our prayers just as we want. I think this passage reminds us that we need to ask, but we also need to accept what God gives us.
Once, I was told that God will answer us in one of four ways. Those answers are: (1) Yes, child; (2) No, child; (3) Wait, I have something better; or (4) My grace is sufficient for you. Those answers have been helpful for me as I process my requests to God. What are you asking for God today? Look for God's answer. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, 45c (Click to read text)
Reflection: Back to Psalm 105. You may not have noticed but I think this is the 3rd time we have visited this Psalm in the past few weeks. Once again we are giving thanks to the Lord and making known to the nations what he has done.
What changes are the verses we read in the middle of chapter 105. Last time it was a few short verses about Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). This time verses 23-26 recap the story of the Israelites in Egypt and God’s servant Moses. So, if you listened to the Joseph recording, how about now watching the epic movie, The Ten Commandments?
No time for that today? Then back to praising God and simply telling of his wondrous acts in your life. Perhaps not to the level of proclaiming epic wonders to the nations but rather sharing simple “God sightings” or “Grace moments” with a friend over coffee, the clerk in the store, the receptionist at the office. Epic or mundane, make known to those around you what God had done in your life. --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, we call on your name and thank you for all you have done. Help us to keep your teachings and tell others of your presence and strength. Praise the Lord! Amen.
Reading: Romans 12: 9-21 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Wow! As I read this passage, I thought to my self how these are simple rules, laid out for us to live a Christian life. It gives all kinds of good advice for how we should act and treat others. If we would meditate and pray about these things, surely our lives would be better.
I was particularly struck by how it tells us to treat our enemies. If we treat them with love and respect, it is like putting hot coals on their head. Taking the high road is the best option.
It is my hope that you spend some time today reflecting on this passage and seeing where you might need to improve in your life. Think on these things, and then take some action! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Exodus 3: 1-15 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This story is rich with images that we'll all probably seen in our heads since our childhood days: Moses, tending his flock; a burning bush; God's voice; Moses taking off his sandals; God calling Moses to do important work. You could inevitably write a reflection on all those images. But, today I'd like to focus on Moses' feet.
Moses took of his sandals, at God's direction, because he was standing on holy ground. I've always thought of our land at camp as holy ground. It is a place where we encounter God, although not usually in a burning bush! (I was told of a burning dead tree in a fire circle this summer, but that's another story for another time!) In the song that was written last year for camp's 50th anniversary, the chorus reminds us
Camp Mount Luther
Where good friends are found
Nature and Service
It's God’s good ground.
Each week, when our staff gathers for their week-ending worship, they take their shoes off when they enter the worship space. For them, it is a reminder that they are standing on holy ground. It's a reminder that God is in their midst. Where are the "holy grounds" in your life? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Matthew 16: 21-28 (Click to read text)
Reflection: So you are standing there, with Jesus, and he says, "I'm on my way to Jerusalem. I'm going to be killed, and then God will raise me up on the third day." What would your response be?
Peter, as we read today, disputes Jesus. "This will never happen to you," he replies. But Jesus knows the truth. And he calls Satan out for making Peter think of human things instead of divine things.
Has that happened in your life? Do you dispute with Jesus, setting your mind on human things and not divine things? Jesus, in our story, reminds his disciples that they need to follow Him and take up their cross. How often, in our lives, do we need to be reminded of the same thing? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing Prayer: Lord, help me take up my cross and follow you. Amen.
These are some thoughts from our Chaplain to the Summer Staff about daily time with God. We've shared them with staff in the past to help them begin a daily devotional time.
Reading: Luke 10: 38-42 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This is a troubling passage. Be hospitable or sit at Jesus’ feet? Which is it? We know that doing--being busy, studying even partying is important. We cannot serve God by being totally inactive. But, paying attention to Jesus is also important as Luke tells us. My pastor recently gave the best insight I have had into this passage for a long time. She said, “It’s a matter of timing.” Isn’t that it? There is a time for us to be busy and there is a time for us to be still, quiet. There is a time for us to actively serve our God and there is a time for us to sit at Jesus’ feet. We do seem to have an easier time doing than we do being still. We have to work at it.
I recommend setting aside a time every day to “sit at Jesus’ feet”—to attend to your spiritual development. Here are three things that are pretty much universally considered essential for personal, daily spiritual development.
1. You must make time and space specifically for spiritual development. Set a time in your daily schedule that is fairly consistently available. This time should be free from distractions—a time when the world cannot overwhelm you. Establish a space where you can be alone, free from interruptions including your own thoughts. Some early Christians went into the desert to accomplish this!
2. Read something prayerfully every day. Many read a portion of scripture. If you choose to do that, read it so that you are drawn into a relationship with God. This is not the time to “study.” One discipline that may be useful to you is called lectio divina. A Google search for lectio divina will give you lots of information. Others find other reading material helpful as well. Sin Boldly by Cathleen Falsani was helpful to me. a big little life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog by Dean Koontz inspired me.
3. Put God at the center of your spiritual development time. One way to do that is pray these words (the Kyrie) repeatedly: Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. One of the advantages of using these (or similar) words is that they tend to keep you focused and you don’t even have to think about what to say. Another possibility is the Lord’s Prayer.
In a nutshell:
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to the Camp Mount Luther Summer Staff
Reading: Psalm 124 (Click to read text)
I don't know how I have missed this Psalm before! What a start it has. "If the Lord had not been on or side...if the Lord had not been on our side when...." Then it lists a bunch of calamities the Israelites escaped with a phew and Praise be to the Lord! Best of all is the ending acknowledgement that our help is in the name of the Lord. And who is this Lord? The maker of heaven and earth! Reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, Be Still My Soul.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; the best thy heavenly Friend; through thorny ways leads to a peaceful end.
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake, to guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall I be bright at last.
Be still my soul the waves and wind still know His voice who ruled them when he dwelt below.
Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
--Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing: Watch this YouTube video of the song from above:
Reading: Romans 12: 1-8 (Click to read text)
This week, our readings all seem to relate to our identity. The other day, I write about how our being a Child of God should be the most important piece of our identity. Today, our passage reminds us that as members of the Body of Christ, we each have different gifts to share with one another. Which one(s) do you possess?
As you think about the gifts you have, think today about how you use those gifts. What might God be calling to do to use them in a new way? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Exodus 1: 8- 2:10 (Click to read text)
If you want to learn about good leadership, I would say don't look at Pharaoh! Feeling threatened, he told the midwives to kill all the male babies. Instead of looking for other solutions, he simply tries to eliminate his "problem."
Where is God in all of this? In the woman, who defying the odds, takes her newborn son to the river and put him in a basket. Pharaoh's daughter finds the child and takes him as her own. The child, Moses, grows up to be a man of God, challenging Pharaoh and helping the Israelites get out of their bondage.
When are the moments in our lives when we challenge authority, knowing that God is leading us in that direction? When are the times when we know God is telling us to listen to those in power and do what we are told? What leaders do you look up, who perhaps lead with more compassion that Pharaoh? --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Matthew 16: 13-20 (Click to read text)
Reflection: In this passage, Jesus asks the disciples to share who people say he is. They respond with various answers, until Jesus presses them to answer the question for themselves. Simon Peter responds that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God! Jesus tells them that is correct and further gives Simon some positive reassurance as he tells Peter that the church will be build on him.
When people ask you who you are, how do you respond? Many times, we wrap up our identity in what we do for a living, or whose family we are in, or something else. But I've heard folks answer the "tell me who you are" question with the answer, "I am a child of God." I think that's neat. That is the most important part of our identity, isn't it?
The next time someone asks you who you are, think about it before you answer. Maybe your answer will be different this time around! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
This is an additional reflection on this Sunday's Psalm.
Reading: Psalm 133 (Click to read text)
Reflection: Early in staff training each year, Chad and I introduce the summer staff to the peace table. It’s just a nicely covered card table that invites staff to make peace with each other. There is a process that we teach and demonstrate. We aren’t sure how often the table gets used throughout the summer, but we do know that 20 people working as closely together as we do find themselves at odds with each other from time to time. Just as we do in our living together in everyday life. The ministry that we do at Camp Mount Luther is a lot better when the staff is at-one with each other. Our life together day in and day out is also an obvious blessing when we are at peace with each other. A blessing to each other and to those around us. Probably you don’t have a peace table available. But, you surely have the opportunity to live in unity with those around you. It takes a little work and some courage to make peace with each other. But, it surely makes life a blessing.
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity.
--Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff.
Reading: Psalm 133 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This is a very short Psalm! Only three verses. It takes longer to find than to read! Fortunately, our GROW Time devotions are set up with a quick link to the text. So, do a quick read! For me, the best verse is the first: "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in community."
Short as this Psalm is, achieving that verse alone is a long process; sometimes a very long process. No wonder when unity does happen, it is a blessing of even life evermore! Living those twelve words makes a world of difference. I have read the phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” These days I am thinking unity would be wonderful – at small levels and the largest.
Where is there a need for unity in your life? How good and pleasant it would be if it are so! --Ruth Gates, frequent Camp Mount Luther Family Camper
Closing Prayer: Dear God, bestow upon us your blessing as we strive to live in unity. Amen.
Reading: Romans 11: 1-2a; 29-32 (Click to read text)
Reflection: This passage talks about mercy. Which made me ponder the question, "What is mercy?" It seems to me that mercy is someone not giving me what is really due to me. God does that. Doesn't it say in scripture that God's mercies toward us are new every day?
Maybe mercy is a theme for this week. Yesterday, we read about Joseph and his brothers. He certainly showed mercy to them. In our gospel reading for this week, a woman comes to Jesus and asks for mercy.
How do you show mercy toward others? How does God show mercy toward you? Ponder those questions as you re-read our stories for this Sunday! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Genesis 45: 1-28 (Click to read text)
Reflection: In the first line of our story for today, we are told that Joseph could no longer control himself. He sent others away and confronted his brothers, letting them know who he was. He even cried.
Have you ever gotten to a point when you could no longer control yourself? Are there times that a revelation or something else has you bursting at the seams, that you just need to open up and share it?
I think that is the work of the Spirit. Sometimes, we bottle things inside and for our own good, we just need to let it out. That happened to me this summer. We were in a staff meeting and after a lengthy discussion about one topic, I just couldn't take it anymore. I burst out, probably like Joseph, and said that I couldn't contain it anymore. I just could not talk about that issue anymore, as I had my fill.
Handling your emotions such as this in a healthy way is good. And I think we need to remember that just like Joseph, there is a time when we need to just let everything out! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on February 6, 2013.
Reading: Matthew 15: 10-28 (Click to read text)
Being human is tough. Being a Christian is even tougher. Becoming a Christian is an easy thing to do, but living a Christ-like life is tougher.
I've found that sometimes words can get you in trouble. I know I often have said things to people that I regret later. Often I say something for humorous effect and not think about how it might hurt someone. In this passage in Matthew, Jesus says that what comes from the mouth comes from the heart. And out of the heart can come some pretty evil things.
Sometimes we know what is right from wrong. But even though we know what we should or should not be doing, we do it anyway. Other forces in our lives take hold and lead us in the wrong manner. How can we prevent that from happening?
Perhaps we need to let the Holy Spirit lead our lives. We need to plan ahead and ask God for peace and self-control. We need to put our trust in the Lord and ask for help before we let unclean hearts control our actions. Try it. I bet you will like the results. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Closing: Discuss with others or meditate on this quote: "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." (Mother Theresa)
Reading: Revelation 22: 12-21 (Click to read text)
Today is a bittersweet day for me. It's the last full day of our summer camping season. When we get to this point each year, I'm filled with mixed emotions. I'm sad that my time working with this staff and these children is over; I'm also tired; and a big part of me is ready to reconnect with my family whom I've not seen as much these past ten weeks and return to a more "normal" life schedule.
This summer has been so good. Despite some obstacles (most of them medical), we've had a terrific summer at camp. Our staff was tremendous. The program ran smoothly. Kids learned more about Living in God's Time and grew in their faith. The weather cooperated for the most part (except on Tuesday overnights) and will soon leave this summer in the hands of God, who will take the seeds we planted and water them.
These staff and campers will become the great cloud of witnesses that make up our camp's history. They are the saints and angels among us. I praise God for the time we've spent together. And, just like the writer of Revelation in our reading today states: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. Amen!" --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b (Click to read text)
Psalm 105 lists many wonders God has done. Verses 16-22 reflect on the story of Joseph, sold as a slave, released from prison by the king and made master of the king's household. Since those 7 verses hardly scratch the surface of the story, you could go back to Genesis and read all of chapters 37-41, OR, you could watch my all-time favorite Bible musical, Joseph and the Amazing, Technicolor Dreamcoat. Or listen to a cast recording.
Now, there is a story of all sorts of things going wrong from a father playing favorites, to a brother a bit full of himself, to sibling rivalry gone very, very bad...and that is just chapter 37! We know it gets even worse! Yet God worked wonders for good. --Ruth Gates, f
Prayer- Dear God, we give you thanks and call on your name. Help us to tell of the wonders you have done, maybe even in the songs of a musical. Go, go, go Joseph! Praise the Lord! Amen.
Reading: Romans 10:5-15 (Click to read text)
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)
Pedicures seem to be in this summer at Camp Mount Luther. Nothing is going to do much for these 72-year-old toe nails, but some of the younger staff (male and female) are into it and their feet do look really nice.
I used this text to preach my one and only ordination sermon. What a nice image. The announcement of peace, good news, salvation, “Your God reigns.” Truly beautiful. And the one who brings us that message is indeed beautiful, no matter how their feet look.
Who needs to hear the good news today? If it is you, then hear this, “Your God reigns.” If it is somebody in your office, home, on the street, …. then get those beautiful feet to work!! --Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff.
Reading: Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28 (Click to read text)
It’s been a little over a year now that my brother, Paul, died. He was 84-years-old and had a long history of esophageal cancer. The last months were rather difficult after many years of being cancer free. The disease returned and spread to his hip. It was not good.
Our last visit (he died in Florida) was a great blessing. Some family had gathered. We ate hard shell crabs. And we laughed. We ate more crabs. And laughed some more. Did I mention we cracked open a lot of crabs? Then we looked around and everybody had cleared out and it was just Paul and me. What a precious gift—that half-hour or so.
I remember that there was a long period of time in our lives (about ten years) when we had not talked to each other. Somehow, we both thought that we had offended the other one or something stupid like that. Oh, how I wish I had those years back!!!
Did you read the story about Joseph and his brothers? Life is to short for that kind of stupidity. Is there a relationship in your life that needs to be healed? Today is the day to do it.
Jim Bricker, Chaplain to Camp Mount Luther’s Summer Staff
Occasionally, we will reprint prior devotions that now reflect on the coming lectionary texts. This is a reprint from a devotion originally published on November 30, 2013.
Reading: Matthew 14: 22-33
Not only does God see our potential and looks at us when we are in need of instruction, but God also sees us when storms arise. The disciples were scared when they were in the boat and a storm came up. Jesus walked on water toward the boat and Peter told Him that if he were indeed the Lord, he wanted to walk toward Him. Peter started walking on the water but when he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. Jesus said, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” Just as Peter did, as soon as we take our eyes off the Lord, we sink. God sees us when storms arise and calls us to Him for help.
God also sees us in places of no hope. In prison, Peter was probably not hopeful that he would get out. But God sent an angel and gave him hope. He was rescued from prison by that angel. This passage tells us that despite what we may think, there is always hope.
God is always with us, watching over us, helping us through storms, and giving us hope. –Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: 2 Corinthians 9: 1-15
2 Corinthians 8 & 9 contain “Administrative Arrangements” for collecting resources to bring relief to the church in Jerusalem which is suffering severe hardships. Take a couple of minutes to read our text for today.
Here are the verses I want to underline:
The one who sows sparingly/bountifully will also reap sparingly/bountifully.
Each of you must give…not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.
Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!
St. Paul is talking about $$$. And that is so very important. But I want to remind all of us of the other gifts God gives us to share. Gifts such as faith, trust, commitment, humor, honesty, tears, questions, encouragement, hugs, anger, fears, frustration, confidence, skills, openness, and thoughtfulness. What gifts would you add?
I am encouraged by the indescribable gifts God gives us. And I think that the more we offer these gifts to others the more gifts we receive. Gifts come back to us many fold. At least that is what I discover every summer I spend with you at Camp Mount Luther. The more I give, the more I receive. So, don’t hold back.
Cheerfully sow bountifully and wait to be enriched. --Jim Bricker, Camp Mount Luther Chaplain to the Staff
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