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Aug 13, 2017

Life Changing

Life Changing

Speaker: Father Will Lowry

Series: All

Keywords: camp mitchell, charlottesville

Most, if not all of you, are aware that I, and eight other folks from St. Theo’s (Al & Mary Addington, Sharon & Michael Moravits, Sue Scott, Lana McDonald, and Joy & Mike Rodda - and Lauren Whitmore; Clelie’s godmother) spent the better part of last week high up on a mountain (at least for Arkansas) - secluded from “the real world”. But I’m not sure that you know for sure what we were doing there.

Officially were session staff - responsible for programing, Christian Ed, and medical needs - at Robert R. Brown - session two at Camp Mitchell, our diocesan summer camp and conference center. But that in NO WAY describes what we were actually doing.

What we were actually doing was having our lives changed. Now, we went there intending to help change others’ lives, and I think we did a little bit of that too, but - and I think I speak for all of us - our lives were just as greatly impacted.

Personally my faith was strengthened, my eyes opened, my heart filled and warmed. I was shown the grace, love, and mercy of God from others over and over again.

I was hugged, high-fived, fist bumped, and hugged some more - by complete and total strangers - almost from the moment I arrived until the moment I pulled out of the gate. I was excepted as an equal - no better, no worse than anyone else. To be honest with you, I don’t know that I felt that I was an equal on my drive up to Camp Mitchell.

You see, Robert R. Brown camp is a camp for folks with any range of different abilities. Some are affected by Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Schizophrenia, mental, physical, and developmental delays or any number of other diseases or illnesses. It wasn’t that I though I was better than any of them or that I was more capable of anything, but rather that I would be different and that I was the outsider coming to their camp. Could I be me and would they accept me as I was?

The answer is a resounding, Yes.

It is really quite incredible too. As I told the staff and campers on Thursday morning at our closing Eucharist, If most of us had met, off of that mountain, just walking down the street we would have been friendly, kind and probably would have smiled and said “hello” to each other. But that would have been pretty much it. It took something else to bring us together, to allow us to get to know each other - to accept each other for who we are.

And part of the reason - that “something else” we find in our reading from Romans today. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” (Romans 10:12)

What that says to me is that there is no distinction between me and you or him or her. God is generous and loves us all - and when we receive that generous spirit of love and grace we can extend it to anyone we choose to.

And here is the other part of that “something else” in our gospel lesson. As the disciples were in the boat and the storm came it brought fear and a feeling of hopelessness. But Jesus came to them - in quite a miraculous way and told them “Do not be afraid”.

He also called them to have faith, to trust. He invited Peter out onto the water - “Come on out the water’s fine”. A true leap of faith if you will. Then, when the disciples’ faith still wained a little bit - he calmed the storm and their fears. He gave them hope.

And that is exactly what happened on that mountain this past week.

When we had fear, God intervened. When we had doubt God showed up and gave us reason to believe. When we were tired God gave us strength. When we were uncertain God showed us the way. And God built a community out of a group of nearly 90 people who had all sorts of doubts and fears and differences. A community that oozed and radiated the love of God. And the light of Christ shone brightly from every face there. In every hug, in every fist bump, every scream, and every smile.

This is why it was a life-changing week. In much the same way that the disciples lives were changed out on that boat in the middle of the sea so was mine up on that mountain.

Now, not long after finishing what I have just preached to you I heard about the horrific acts in Charlottesville, Virginia. I must say, it was hard for me not to just scrap everything I had to say before now.

Let me be clear. What was being represented as “Conservative Right” - call it right-wing, alt-right, white nationalism or patriotism - call it whatever you want - it is WRONG -  and it is in NO WAY Christian. It IS white supremacy, neo-nazism - it is EVIL. (And by the way, I was raised by a conservative and this is not plain conservatism.)

It is indefensible and anyone who tries to defend it is flat out wrong and in direct opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us who have been baptized or confirmed in this church have made a vow to strive for justice and peace among ALL people and respect the dignity of EVERY human being.

The scenes from yesterday made me feel sick to my stomach. And as I thought about it throughout the day I wondered what I could do - especially when what has happened seems so far away. But then I am reminded by a picture of one of the demonstrators carrying a torch and marching with white supremacists who is wearing a University of Arkansas Engineering t-shirt. If that’s not close enough to home I don’t know what is.

Although I don’t have all of the answers yet, here is what I plan to start doing right now. I promise to speak out against ALL injustice and name it for what it is. I promise to learn more about those who work towards committing these injustices through action and rhetoric and condemn them for it. I plan to listen to those who have been calling for help and not been heard. I will no longer think that there is nothing that I can do.

I will also ask God for forgiveness for my inaction and I will pray for us all. And I pray that you will join me.


Fr. Will