“there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42
It is High Ropes day. I watch, I cheer, I encourage, I get to be part of the group on the ground cheering for our village as teams work together high above us on the ropes course. We are at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp for Confirmation Camp. The eleven youth from Lord of the Hills are spending 7 days and 6 nights away from home- away from television, computers, Facebook, Instagram, parents, pets, siblings, summer boredom, their own beds and regular routines. I am so grateful to the families of these young people who have helped them chose "the better part”. The experiences of this week will last a lifetime.
This week will not be taken away from our young adults as part of their faith formation journey. The mountains and hiking, KP (kitchen party), sleeping in bunk beds, rafting, cleaning out the shower house, daily worship, prayer, singing, bible study, crafts, congregation time, gaga ball, games, boring watch, time in quiet reflection, campfires, a sky so clear that stars shine with great brightness- none of this can be taken away.
Throughout each day I am praying for our youth who are here and their families at home that this experience will be engraved upon their hearts God’s amazing love for them. Each day I am praying that they experience the love that is stronger than evil. Each day they get to see first hand that God’s goodness, compassion, and forgiveness are stronger than our doubts and fears.
In 2016, when we held our first congregational retreat** here at Rainbow Trail, three of our high school students chose me to be a part of their foursome to do the high ropes course. The picture above is one view of that course. I would not have chosen this experience for myself- it was chosen for me (and I did agree). It is definitely in the “better part” category- now. As terrified as I was, as bruised up and sore afterwards -I will be forever grateful that I had that experience. It’s an experience that will forever stay be with me.
Here are a few reasons why; one- it cannot be taken away. It will always stay done- not a lot of things in life work that way. Every time I am out there watching, cheering and encouraging our youth to take the risk and get strapped in to those harnesses, I share from a firsthand experience. To be able to identify with those afraid of heights, self-conscious of their physical abilities, uncertain that they will be able to finish is a gift.
Secondly, when I watch, cheer and encourage I am reminded of those who were there for me and did the same. I know it was the power of the group that helped me make it through. And last but not least it was a faith experience for me. It has stayed with me and I believe it always will. There are times in our lives that we can realize even as uncomfortable or frightening or outside of the “ordinary” we can chose the better part.
That’s what Mary did. The “better part” that Mary chose was to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen and learn. It was a faith experience for her to not rush about worried and distracted- instead to be fully present with Jesus. At camp we get to be present.
This is why it’s important for me to encourage our families to send their children to camp. We offer our kids a chance to unplug and get out of their comfort zones so that they can learn about Jesus undistracted. This is why it’s important for me to take this week to be at camp with our youth even when there are many competing demands for my time. As their pastor I get to have a unique faith experience with them. We get to watch, cheer, and encourage one another.
This is why it’s important that in our life together as a congregation we also offer faith experiences down the mountain in the midst of the every day distractions. This is why I want to invite you to consider how the Spirit is calling you to chose “the better part” not only for the bigger faith experience investments of time- like camp- also in the every day connections with Jesus as well as the weekly opportunities to worship. Bible study, contemplative prayer, being of service, joining a group of people from church to try out something new- these can all be ways to choose the better part.
Gathered together as community we get to encourage and cheer one another along on this journey of discipleship. What distractions or worries get in your way? This week what help do you need to “choose the better part’?
**Consider joining in our next congregational retreat to be held this September 13-15, 2019 at Rainbow Trail- all ages welcome and if you decide to try the high ropes course I will be there to cheer you on!