Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sermon at Camp Phoenix, 2013: We are the Body of Christ

Amazing Grace
I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
Seek Ye First
Take My Life

Here we are at the last full day of camp.

We have tie-dyed shirts. We have swam and solved puzzles and yelled and sang; we have led and we have been led. We have gathered around the campfire. We have learned new games, like GaGa, and Nine Square, and Quidditch. We have enjoyed the new mat out in the lake, and the beach party, and creek walks, and dock to dock swim.

But we could do all of that at any camp.

THIS is Camp Phoenix.

This is a gathering of kids and adults from the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, and their friends. And that makes this camp different, because when we gather together, we are the Body of Christ.

When we talk about the all the Christian Churches-- including the Episcopal Church, and the Baptist Church, and the Lutheran Church, and our hosts here at Camp Dubois, the United Church of Christ—When we talk about all those churches, we often call them “the Body of Christ.”

When we take communion, we talk about “the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven.” You’re going to hear those words in just a few minutes.

But we also have to remember that each of you individually ARE the Body of Christ.

Being the Body of Christ means we are called to do, and speak, and be good in the world.
So, then, this week, we have been talking about mission.

Each day we have learned about a different ministry: do you remember what they are?
Deaconess Anne House
Episcopal City Mission
Hunger Task Force

People in this diocese take part in these missions to carry the love and message of Jesus Christ out into the world. But in doing that, we also bring the message of Jesus Christ, and the love of God, right into our hearts and into our own lives! That’s how the love of God works—by giving, we also receive. By helping, we are helped.

By giving, we also receive. By helping, we are helped.

We’ve heard a lot of stories from the Bible this week. Our gospel reading today is a short but important section of the book of Matthew. In fact, these are the very last words of the gospel of Matthew. This scene took place right after Easter, and includes Jesus’s last words to his followers in that gospel. Often, our last words we say to someone before we go somewhere away from them are our most important words to them.

The disciples realize that they are not going to have Jesus physically present with them any more. However, his work was not finished. So Jesus gives his followers one last set of instructions. These instructions are known as the “Great Commission.” The term “Commission” has a word in it that we have been talking about a lot this week. What word is that?


So in this gospel, Jesus is sending his disciples on one last, very important mission. Jesus gives his disciples power—power to go do three things. Did you hear them? What are they?

The power to go make disciples of all nations,
The power to baptize those new followers to become disciples themselves,
The power to teach the new followers all the commandments Jesus has given them.

The disciples are also promised something—that Jesus will be with them, and all the disciples who will come after them.  Who are those new disciples? We are! And we know then that Jesus is with us, always! So we have been given the power to act into the world. We have this power because we aren’t just the disciples of Jesus—WE ARE the face, and hands and body of Jesus to a world that needs Jesus


A wise woman of the Church named St. Teresa of Avila explains it to us in these words:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Where can we get the power to be the Body of Christ? What makes all our actions work for good? The answer is in our reading from 1 Corinthians— what does it say?

Through love.

The love we receive from God,
the love God gives to us, and, just as important,
the love we have for each other—our friends, our families, our neighbors, even if those neighbors are halfway around the world.

WHAT is our mission? To spread the love of God out into the world, to be Christ’s body, right now, spreading out from Camp Phoenix and our homes and our churches like the rays of the sun.

HOW are we empowered to do our mission? Through the willingness to take action, supported by the love we give and receive from God. When we welcome and love the people we meet and care for each other, we are loved and cared for, too.

As you leave Camp Phoenix for this year, we hope that you will act upon this mission, because everyone here can do something. We hope you will look for ways to help others, to continue to support the ministries we have talked about, or even to come up with your own. You can see the hungry and feed them, comfort the sick, support kids served by ECM, offer a hand to those who need it, help rebuild our community.

This is your Mission-- and Mission Is Possible!

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