I'm guessing that most of you have been camping at one time or another in your life. As I write this, I'm getting ready to pack up my family and head to the woods. We'll be in an area famous for no cell phone coverage, with the closest town being nearly a half hour away. But I can't really call what we'll be doing camping. We rent a cabin and flip a switch to get some light, sleep on beds, and everything else. And you RV-ers out there can't really call that "camping" either. I've seen how nice some of those RVs are. For our purposes today, I want you to think about real camping, sleeping in a tent, surrounded only by four thin walls of nylon. For whatever duration your excursion lasts, that tent becomes your home. You sleep in that tent, you probably change clothes in that tent, and if it rains during the day, you take shelter in that tent.
Yet all the while you know that the tent is not truly your home. At the end of two or three days, you leave the woods or campground and return to your permanent home. That's the nature of camping - the tent is only temporary. You enjoy it during your period of traveling in the outdoors, and then you roll it up and put it back into the closet.
The Apostle Paul uses this picture of a tent in his second letter to the Corinthians. This tent is not made of nylon or canvas. This tent does not serve as shelter for an outdoors adventure. Rather, this tent is the earth upon which God has placed human beings. This tent is our mortal body. We only dwell in this tent for a short span, the blink of an eye, until we move on to bigger, grander, permanent dwellings. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:1, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."
It's this message that our church's Vacation Bible School is all about the last week of this month - the reminder that everything we see and all that we own are only temporary.
That's an important message for all of us. So let's look in the mirror. What do you see? I know that when I look in the mirror, all too often I see a person who likes grabbing up whatever cool things his money can buy. I see a person who thinks about this life and all he can accomplish for himself. I see a person who thrives off of popularity and the high opinions of others over loving God's word and following his will.
Do you see the same when you look into the mirror? In times of honest reflection, you most certainly will. We love to put the emphasis and importance of our lives on what happens to us in this earthly tent. But what happens when all of these are destroyed? What happens when we lose everything, even our lives? What happens when we have nothing left?
That's where God reminds us of the sweet news. Christ has won eternal dwellings for us through his death on the cross. He paid for our sins there and restored the relationship between humanity and God. Now I don't see a doomed creature of sin in the mirror, but a child of God made holy by Jesus' blood and righteousness. Now when the tent of this earth is destroyed, that's OK, because we have a building from God that is not made out of brick and mortar, but is "eternal in the heavens."
This is the message that all need to hear, even your kids. Think about letting those children who are so important to you get a chance to be reminded of that great news of the gospel. Bring them to Vacation Bible School. The theme is the "Amazing Desert Journey." Students will learn all about what their Savior has accomplished to save them from sin and death and the devil, and how Jesus leads us onward home through the desert of this life.
Parents and guardians, I ask that as you plan your summer schedules, remember the words which Jesus spoke to his disciples."Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14). No amount of time spent at Six Flags or the Georgia Aquarium or at grandma and grandpa's house is more important than making sure that your children spend time in God's word this summer. "Amazing Desert Journey" at Abiding Grace is a great way to bring this to them.
Vacation Bible School runs from June 25-29, 9 a.m. to noon each morning. Ages 3-10 are welcome to attend. Register online at vbs.abidinggrace.com or by calling (770) 385-7691. There is no cost but space is limited, so register right away.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.