Last week, as I mentioned, I had the honor and privilege of serving as the High School speaker for the New Wilmington Mission Conference. I had never really attempted anything like that, speaking seven days in a row. So when I was sitting down to come up with what on earth I would talk about for seven days, I discovered that in the gospel of John, Jesus gave us seven "I Am" statements. Seemed easy enough!
I started in Exodus 3, when God reveals the Name to Moses. "I AM." It's a statement about who God is, but it is also a statement about our identity as humans. All the things that we are incapable of being, God is. When we are at our weakest, God is at God's strongest.
The next night, we looked at Jesus as the Bread of Life, the sustaining, life giving force in the universe. We also talked about how as the rest of the world would kill for just a simple piece of bread, we as Americans have gone off the deep end by introducing abominations like this one into our diet:
After that, we moved on to Jesus as the Light of the world. This talk began with technical difficulties, which basically ruins me every time I give a talk. It's like putting my shoes on the wrong feet before I begin speaking. But what I was trying to get across was that in the world of physics, light doesn't always obey the rules. It has it's own way of going about the world, as Jesus himself did. So we as followers of Christ are called to live with a lose relationship to earthly rules, and live within the bounds of the kingdom.
From there, we took a look at Jesus as the good shepherd. There is way too much to discuss here, but the story in John is incredible. Jesus first refers to himself as the gate, and then also as the shepherd, which makes it sound like Jesus has parable ADD. But it turns out that the the gate was actually a term used when shepherds would lead their sheep into a cave for the night, and then lay down at the entrance to the cave. The shepherd became the gate by literally laying down their lives for the sheep. Hmmmm....
From there we hit my favorite talk of the week. Jesus as the resurrection and the life. I think this topic is especially important for teenagers, but the idea is that the resurrection is not simply something for us to enjoy after we die. We experience all kinds of death here in our every day lives. Jesus has something to say about that. Jesus has something to say about the death of bullying, or racism, or oppression. Jesus is walking along side us all the way, moving us from death to life. It's a beautiful thing.
The next night we had communion together as a camp, so I spoke briefly on Jesus as the truth. What do you do when the truth is a person? What do you do when the truth refuses to be studied the way that facts are, but rather insists on personal encounters and experiences? You worship of course!
The last night, I talked about Jesus as the vine. There is a temptation always when you are up at a camp or conference to try to stay in that mindset, stay in that mode for as long as you can. But that's not what Jesus called us to. Jesus didn't call us to remain in awesome moments, he called us to remain in him. So Friday night was a bit of a benediction and a sending.
After exactly one day off, because I don't know how to read a calendar, I was back at Westminster speaking at all three services. (Listen here) As soon as I stood up at the podium at the 8:30 service, my throat started to get sore. By the end of the 11:00 sermon, I was whispering. Who knew that speaking 10 times in 9 days would be such a chore! But for a guy who had spent the beginning of the summer saying I wished I could preach more, I can't complain. My voice is back to full strength, and I got to spend the week with some of the most thoughtful, delightful, and engaged young people I've met for a while. I'll be back at the office for a week, before I head up to Pine Springs Camp for a week of VWD. The summer never sleeps!