Warm-up Question

  1. What are your favorite summer traditions? 
  2. Summer is a time of changing rituals. What kinds of emotions does this change bring to you?

A New Season

People think of the start of summer in different ways. Some look to the Summer Solstice–June 20th in the Northern Hemisphere this year–as the official launch of summer. Others consider the last day of school as the first day of summer. For some of us, it’s the start of summer camp. All across the country, many camp counselors are learning skills, designing curricula, and preparing spaces for youth and families alike to engage their faith in the midst of creation and community.

It may not be obvious to you, but the impact of summer camp lasts far beyond a fun week with silly songs, scriptural skits, and faithful friendships. Two different sets of research show that attendance at summer camp correlates with a long-lasting faith. People who attend church camps are much more likely to have a faith that lasts into the future. People who attend church camps are also more likely to stay connected to local congregations and regularly utilize personal spiritual practices.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean camp should replace Sunday worship services, nor does it mean that camps are better than local congregations. Instead, it suggests that camps and congregations are excellent partners in increasing the impact of faith in the lives of people right now in ways that extend the impact of faith into the future of people’s lives.

To be clear, this research doesn’t suggest that attending camp is a guarantee of faith. It isn’t. Instead, camp is scaffolding, a stabilizing force that supports a continued faith journey for people of all ages. This happens through relationships with counselors and peers, along with putting faith learned in congregations into practice in other contexts. Camp is a laboratory that helps us live the teachings of Jesus in the midst of the world.

You can read summaries of the research here, as well as find links to the larger research projects themselves.

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever been to a summer camp? This could be a church camp, scouts, YMCA, 4H, sports, and others. If so, what did you like about it. If not, why haven’t you gone before?
  2. How do you practice your faith outside of church on Sunday mornings?

Second Sunday After Pentecost

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Psalm 81

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

Mark 2:23-3:6

Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings at Lectionary Readings.

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Active Rest

Each of our readings this morning speaks, in one way or another, to the freedom we gave thanks to the work of God. Deuteronomy reminds us that we find rest on the Sabbath because God frees us from oppression. 2nd Corinthians reminds us that, by joining Jesus in death and resurrection, we find freedom from persecution, despair, even destruction. In Mark we witness Jesus challenging our notions of propriety by offering freedom from hunger and hurt even on the Sabbath. 

As I reflected on these readings appointed for this Sunday, one verse in particular struck me. It comes from Psalm 81, “I hear a voice I had not known,” and that’s the voice that leads to liberation. Unfortunately, the voices that we do not aren’t often so helpful. 

The voices of advertisers speak to us time and again—on our televisions, on social media, through text messages, in paper and digital mail. They speak constantly, incessantly. I’d be willing to bet most Americans have memorized more advertising jingles than they have scriptures or prayers. The same goes for Tik Tok trends, movie quotes, song lyrics, and more. That’s not necessarily because people like those voices more, or value them more—instead, it’s because the world’s cacophony does all it can to drown out the voice of God in our lives. To be honest with you, I’m almost certain I could quote you more commercial advertisements than scriptural advisements.

One of the ways we can get away from those voices and listen once again to God’s voice is by getting outside and away from the distractions. Every summer–and throughout the year–church camps provide this opportunity. Of course, there are other places like state and national parks where we can get away from the world’s cacophony. Yet, church camps provide us with the unique opportunity to listen to God through creation, community, and Christian teaching.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the voices that get most of your attention? They could come from people you know or from places like entertainment, advertisers, and the like. 
  2. How do you distinguish those voices from God’s voice? If you have any practices that help or wisdom to share with your peers, please do!
    1. If you’re reflecting on your own, consider using social media as a way to share this wisdom, which can offer a way for God’s voice to break in amidst other voices.
  3. How does God speak to you differently outside of church, especially in places like the woods, the beach, the mountains, the desert, and other natural areas?

 Activity Suggestions

  1. Go outside. It doesn’t have to be at a camp. It could be on your church property, at a local park, or just the yard outside your door. Turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” and listen for God’s voice in the world around you. Consider the breeze in the trees, the buzz of bugs, even the pattering of the rain. Take some time to rest from other distractions and hear God’s voice in nature. Write down what you feel and hear so you can remember it next time you’re needing to hear God’s voice.
  2. Plan a trip away with friends of faith. This could be church camp, a mission trip, or a youth gathering. It could also be a bike ride after school or brunch on the weekend. While away together, intentionally ask one another where you see God active outside the walls of the church.

Closing prayer:  

Word of God, speak to us. Carry through the noise of the world around us. Help us to recognize your voice, to heed your wisdom, and to embrace your ways of rest. When we’re distracted, help us find the places where your words are clear and your voice rings through. Wherever we go this summer, and whatever we do, speak to us in ways that free us for the abundant life that you promise to your people. Amen.