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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sermon 06242012 Third Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray, Lord God Heavenly Father!  Throughout the world and even here in Goodland Kansas there are many people who are lost.  These people we sometimes meet at Wal-Mart, driving down the street, swimming at the pool or even in line at the elevator or McDonald’s.  God use us to not let these people continue to be lost, but be found by the Gospel message.  Enable each of us to proclaim and live the life of faith and the Gospel so they may be found by the Gospel message of what Jesus Christ has done for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

This past week I had the opportunity to attend Confirmation Camp with four of our confirmation students, Lily Mays who was confirmed earlier this year, Simon Bassett, Kasey Stramel and Kate Zelfer.  In the past our confirmation kids would go to Sky Ranch outside of Fort Collins, CO for a week of experiencing God high atop the mountains.  However, earlier this month a lightning strike started one of the worst wildfires in Colorado’s history, known as the High Park Fire.  As a direct result of the fire and for the safety of the Sky Ranch staff and visitors, the entire camp was evacuated two weeks ago.  So this past week Sky Ranch has been in exile and held at Highlands Presbyterian Camp in Allenspark, CO.

To say the least the staff of Sky Ranch began the evacuation experience being ‘lost’ like the sheep and the coins from our Gospel lesson this morning.  In the face of adversity of only having minutes to pack and evacuate, some Sky Ranch counselors and staff only escaped with the clothes on their backs, were forced to leave all their personal belongings, identification, vehicles and all their worldly possessions at camp because there was no time for them to pack.  Every counselor and staff members main focus was the safety and preparation and packing of and for the kids like Simon, Kasey, Lily and Kate and insuring all of their belongings were taken down the mountain.

And so this week the staff has experienced in an intense way what being lost is really like.  Where they had trained in preparation for the summer season, the equipment used, the familiar surroundings was gone because of the fire and their evacuation.  But out of adversity the Gospel message of Jesus Christ came just as the theme for the summer is, “Grace” in the form of a place to be welcomed and called home.  Highlands Presbyterian Camp gave the greatest gift of Grace in welcoming Sky Ranch and Lily, Simon, Kate and Kasey with welcome arms and fulfilled what we heard about here at Emmanuel during our Vacation Bible School.  The theme for both the week at Confirmation Camp and our Vacation Bible School was GRACE meaning, “Giving and Receiving the Assurance of Christ Everyday” and all of us who attended camp experienced God’s grace throughout the week.

Every day we learned more about the GRACE of God as a Gift, Our receipt of it, how it changes us and how we are free to give it away every day to everyone we meet.  We also felt the grace offered by Highlands and living out the message of grace and salvation for a group who were lost and had lost our home. 

But the greatest impact was on Thursday night.  For the final worship at Highlands, all of the campers from Highlands Presbyterian and Sky Ranch joined our hearts our souls and our voices together to like our Gospel lesson says to rejoice.  Ironically as part of the worship two of the small groups from Highlands performed skits as an illustration for our worship.  And the Gospel lesson we heard proclaimed today were the skits that were performed.  Clearly God’s message as portrayed by the children took on new meaning for me and all of the campers and staff.  With both the parable of the lost coins and the parable of the lost sheep all of us who worshiped didn’t experience the parables in the same way they were told by Jesus, but we the ‘lost’ who were welcomed by Highland’s celebrated the greatest gift given by Jesus Christ.  We rejoiced that our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit sent Jesus Christ into this world to save all of us lost creatures.  And we the lost have been found and now are enabled to rejoice and share the message of salvation of what Jesus Christ did for all of us.
To be one of the lost is for some an unimaginable thing, but clearly the experience that Sky Ranch and Highland’s has experienced will clearly change our perspective.  That is exactly what this Gospel is trying to do, change our perspective.  Kate, Simon, Kasey and Lily and I experienced in a new way what God’s grace is all about.  We left here Sunday and had an experience with the lost counselors of Sky Ranch and were welcomed at Highlands and experienced the greatest manifestation of the gift of salvation of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with one another.  And we rejoiced with everyone, for we were lost, but now have been found.  For the Gospel was clearly lived, shared and celebrated, not because, but in spite of the High Park fire and the witness we experienced is God’s grace in action with our theme “Giving and Receiving the Assurance of Christ Everyday”. For Sky Ranch and we the saints here at Emmanuel have the opportunity to find the lost, give and receive the grace of Christ because Jesus Christ freely died for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
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