The summer between my junior and senior years of college I decided, so I thought, to forgo the usual tradition of getting an internship in one's major field of study in order to help the job search process a year down the road, and instead I spent my last summer before "real life" began as a camp counselor at a Presbyterian camp.
At the end of our 2 weeks training that included lifeguard certification for me and a WONDERFUL 3 day staff canoe trip for all of us, we received our first assignments. My first two week assignment would include being the trip leader and lifeguard on a 4 days middle school canoe trip. Uh oh.
This was the kind of camping I may have overstated in the interview process. I was familiar with CAMP, but not necessarily CAMPING, the kind where the van takes you to one point on the river, watches you drop your canoes and gear in the water, and then waves goodbye. The only other plan for the trip is that the van will pick you up at a designated meeting point somewhere farther down the river, 4 days and 3 nights later. There are no state or county parks along the way. (Hear me say in that, there are no bathrooms along the way.) There are no designated campsites. The only consolation I had as a VERY inexperienced river camper is that the second portion of our trip was the same trip we had taken as a staff. Eventually, there would be signs that I had led the group on the right path. Eventually.
I panicked a bit when I got the assignment. What happens if someone gets hurt? You received first aid training, the director told me. What happens if we take a wrong turn? There are no forks in the river, the trip director told me. What happens if we can't find a campsite? There's always SOMEWHERE, an experienced counselor told me. When will I get my cell phone? You won't, they all replied. I was sure I was not ready for this assignment and this responsibility.
If he had known about them, I'm convinced Abram would have asked where his cell phone was, too. This trip God announced was not his trip originally; it was his father's trip. Abram was "Abram of Ur of the Chaldeans;" Ur was in modern day Iraq. God called Abram from "his country," but when he leaves he doesn't leave from Ur; he leaves from Haran. In modern day Turkey, not Iraq. Haran was "his country," and had been for some time since his father had died leading his family on a journey toward Canaan.
The trip to Canaan had been his father's trip, not Abram's. Apparently when they passed into Haran along the way, not really right along the way, they decided to stay for a little while. Unfortunately, while they were there Abram's dad died, and Abram decided to just stay at least long enough for Haran to become, in the Lord's words, "his country."
Abram's life had been disrupted once before when his father felt the need to move the family from Ur to Haran on the way to Canaan. Here it was getting disrupted again when the Lord came calling to an older, settled Abram. Here it was getting disrupted by the Lord telling Abram to finish the trip he started with his father and make his way from Haran on down to Canaan. Late in his life, God called Abram out of retirement to move his family, all the possessions they had gathered, all the people associated with their household and move to a new and different place.
The excuses could have been innumerable. But we're old, God. We've settled here, and we're happy. We have all these new employees who will be uprooted from their lives and their families. Where will we sleep along the way, no matter when we get there? What if someone gets hurt? What if I get hurt? What will happen to my wife? What if I don't know the right way? Can I have a cell phone?
Like Abram, no matter what our age, no matter how settled we are in our lives, God calls us to new and different places. God calls us to make changes in our lives, our thinking, our routines. God disrupts our comfortable, settled lives and asks us to do new things, meet new people, go new places, even if not physically, than in our thinking, our believing, our relationships, our activities and involvements. God breaks in just when we think we are settled and have everything in order, knowing what we like to do and how we life to do, and calls us to try something new, serve in a different way, follow to places we haven't even imagined going. It's a disruption, but it's a holy disruption.
This morning, of course, we are highlighting some possible disruptions, some place God might be calling you or your family. Camp is getting a lot of attention, of course, but there are other holy disruptions out there, other unfamiliar lands to which God may be calling any of us. Synod School isn't as exotic as Canaan, but driving through Corn State can seem like a epic biblical journey. It's not far, but it's away. It's not what we usually do. It's not a part of our routine for the summer, and we don't know exactly what to expect.
Working with our friends in the new garden we are building for them doesn't involve a journey hundred or thousands of miles away, but the setting is new. The people and the conditions they live with are different than what many of us are used to. It can seem like an intimidating call. It's unknown, unfamiliar, a little bit scary.
Sending our children to camp or going on the Mishpack mission trip isn't the same as moving forever to a new land, but it means traveling to a different place, a different culture even within the bounds of the same country. They do things in a different way in these places, play different games, eat different favorite meals, order their lives into different routines. It can be frightening to be the new person, the uninitiated, the foreigner in an established country.
Volunteering to provide our local day camp ministries might not be on our calendar or we may think we have "done our time," serving this way before, but God keeps calling. God's time is not our time. God's expectations are not our expectations. There is room and a purpose for all of God's people in the ministry God intends to accomplish. Abram and Sarai, seventy-five years old, are only just getting started when God uproots them from their country, their settled lives and calls them to continue down to Canaan.
The excuses we can make are all familiar. I don't have time. I'm not equipped to help. I'm not the right age - - too old, too young, too busy somewhere in the middle. I don't know enough about it to lead my family that direction. I don't know enough about it to accomplish the task correctly. I'm happily settled in my life and my routine; I don't need to mess it all up with something new. I just don't see the point.
God anticipated all the excuses right up front with Abram. Before he even got a chance to lay them all out before God, the Lord stated the case for the call. Abram, the Lord promised, will be blessed in making the journey. Abram and his family after him will be blessed, changed in ways they never would have imagined or experienced if they stayed put in Haran, if they resisted the new and unknown. He would know the unique blessing of those who look to the hills and mountains and trust that God is their help. He would know and experience the blessing of being united with God in purpose and mission. He would live with the blessing of comfort and peace of mind knowing his family and descendants (another unexpected blessings) could call to mind their memories of his faithfulness long, very long after he would be gone from this earth.
And on top of all that is the promise that he would also be a blessing to others. Through Abram God built a personal relationship with humankind. In Abram God picked a family through which God would work as an example to all creation. The general relationship with all of creation didn't seem to be getting through to people. As humanity was spreading, so was the sinful desire to be in charge, to be gods. Creation got so corrupt that it had to be restarted with a flood. People got so ambitious they built a tower to try to reach the Lord.
In Abram God decided to work through a particular family to bless creation with a specific example of what grace and obedience, faithfulness and forgiveness, second and third and fourth and fifth chances look like. In Abram and through his human and flawed family, God decided to establish a pattern for personal relationships with humankind. God decided to show us all how God works in unexpected ways to bless us and the lives we live. It all started with a call, a disruption, a holy disruption. It all started with an invitation to go with God somewhere new - to a new place, to new people, to new experiences with God as his keeper.
Here in our church this week we're highlighting summer ministries - - camps, conferences, and missions away from town, and mission and worship opportunities here close to home. There are all sorts of opportunities for all ages, stages of faith, and abilities. Many of them, if not MOST of them are new to MOST of us. They may be outside of our comfort zones, but none of them are outside the reach of the Lord our God who keeps our going our and our coming in forever. They might be outside of our usual routine, but they aren't outside the watch of our Lord who neither slumbers nor sleeps. Some might even be a disruption to our plans and our ideas, but none are beyond the imagination of God who keeps and creates heaven and earth. They might just be holy disruptions.
I encourage you to look at the opportunities. Imagine what you might do different with your time, your energy, your faith this summer. Listen to where God might be calling you to step out in faith on a new journey to something completely new and completely different. Ultimately, that's what this is all about. Ultimately that's what the life of faith is all about. It's about listen to where God is calling us to go for God's own purpose. And when we trust and when we follow, we too can be blessed and a blessing to others.