I didn’t grow up going to summer camp, but in the years since I’ve been ordained, I’ve grown to love it. Summer camp offers kids from various walks of life the opportunity to get away, to set down their electronic devices, and to just be kids. Summer camp is hot, it is loud, it is messy, and it is a whole lot of fun. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity for young adults to share the love of Christ with a new crop of kids, just as their counselors did before. In the Diocese of Kentucky, All Saints’ runs four, week-long sessions for children and youth from rising second graders all the way on up to high school seniors. You’ll note from the dark circles under my eyes that I’ve spent this last week serving as Chaplain to the New Horizons Camp for fifth and sixth graders. Our theme this summer was “The Circus is Coming,” and our key verse came from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
Glory isn’t a word that we use much anymore, so the first thing we had to do was try to work out a definition. In the world’s eyes, glory is given to those who accomplish notable achievements. This week, a ticker-tape parade was held in New York City to celebrate the glory of victory for the World Cup Champion, United States Women’s National Team. Glory can be used as a synonym for magnificence or great beauty, as in, the sun setting behind the trees at camp was glorious, or to describe anything that is distinctive or due extra pride or honor. It’s not that any of these things are bad, in and of themselves, but the world’s understanding of glory can lead to misunderstandings about to whom glory is rightfully given. When glory is something that can only earned only by the most elite, the most beautiful, the most athletic, or the rich and the famous, we marginalize all of us who tend to be pretty good at our crafts, and often forget the One from whom all good gifts are given and from whom all blessings flow.
We shared with the campers that as Christians, we give glory first and foremost to God. God is the single most glorious thing in all the world, and so we offer God all the glory through praise, worship, and by giving thanks in all things. Each of us who has been created in the image of God share in that glory. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we all share in the responsibility of reflecting, albeit imperfectly, the glory of God into the world, by letting our light so shine before others that they might see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.
Which brings us to the final definition of the word glory. If you’re doing a Google search of the word, you’ll have to expand the box and scroll a bit, but way down there, the fourth definition of the noun form of glory is “a luminous ring or halo, especially as depicted around the head of Jesus Christ or a saint.” The way in which Jesus and the saints were able to shine their light into the world was so obvious, that over time, when people made artwork about them, they showed that glory shining brightly round about them. What we discovered, however, was that, like glory, sainthood isn’t just for those deemed most special. All Saints’ Camp is named All Saints’ in honor of every disciple of Jesus who has ever set foot on that property, each of whom are saints of God. All of us are called to reflect the light of Christ into the world. All of us are called to reflect the glory of God in our spheres of influence. All of us carry our own halos around with us as we make the love of God known.
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life.” Luke tells us that the lawyer who brought this question to Jesus had come to test him. He had heard of the glorious works done by this new Rabbi on the scene and wanted to see if he passed the right tests. Jesus can be frustratingly enigmatic in these cases. He rarely answers a question like this directly, and Luke 10:25-37 is no exception. Jesus answers the lawyer’s question with one of his own, turning the work of revelation back on the one who was seeking. “You’re the expert in the Law, how do you read its requirements?” Jesus asks the man. In Luke’s account, the abundantly clear and truly challenging requirements of the Kingdom of God don’t come from the lips of Jesus, but rather, from this lawyer who came to challenge him. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus, in perhaps his most transparent moment in all the Gospels, simply replies, “Do this, and you will live,” or as a famous shoe company has put it for years, “Just do it.”
Would that it was so easy just to love God, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Law of Christ is so very straightforward and yet, it seems to be almost impossibly simple. Loving God is the easier of the two requirements, so we’ll start there. The expert in the Law notes that loving God is not just something we that we feel, but it requires our whole humanity to do properly. We are called to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our strength, and with all of our mind. Loving God in this way means putting God first on the priority list in our lives. It means giving God thanks in all things. It means offering God praise in all circumstances. It means showing God our admiration and respect no matter what is happening around us. In short, as we learned at summer camp this week, loving God with our whole lives means giving God all the glory.
Loving our neighbors is by far the tougher bit. As halo carrying members of the glory of God club, we are called, through stories like the Good Samaritan, to reflect the light of Christ to everyone we meet. Unlike the priest and the Levite who are so worried about protecting their own glory; trying to keep their halos from becoming tarnished by the man who had been robbed, it is the Samaritan, who had no illusion of an unblemished halo, who took the risk to reach out and be a true neighbor to one who was in need along the side of the road.
“Just do it” has been a pretty good slogan for Nike over the years, and it would behoove us as Christians to follow it in our daily attempts at loving God and loving our neighbor, however, the ability to “just do it” requires one other component. For Episcopalians, that piece is found in the Baptismal Covenant, a series of eight questions that define the basics of the Christian faith. Five of the questions deal directly with how we will live as followers of Jesus, and they are answered in the same way, “I will with God’s help.” Shining with the light of Christ, bringing the glory of God into the world, living into the Great Commandments; these are not things any of us can do on our own. So, if I might be so bold as to add something to the words of Jesus, we might be better off hearing him tell the lawyer not simply, “just do it,” but “just do it, love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, love your neighbor as yourself, and let the glory of God shine through you; do it all, with God’s help.” Amen.