The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Sermon - July 3, 2016
Scripture Reading: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 & Galatians 6:1-10
Sermon Title:
Measuring our Success”

The Rev. Robert Vodra

     I returned from Cub Scout camp just a few days ago.  Collin and I spent Sunday through Thursday at camp, with 17 of his Cub Scout Friends, and 4 other leaders in addition to myself.  I had thought about these scriptures before I left, and knowing that Beth had to put a bulletin together, I had chosen the hymns, and the other parts of the service before I left.  But I would have Friday and Saturday to write my sermon. 

     Late last week when I was putting together my first thoughts on the sermon and bulletin info, I titled my sermon Measuring our Success.  The Luke scripture upon first few readings and little bit of research started to push me in that direction.  If you go into a town and are rejected, just brush off the dust and move on. 

     But then I arrived at Cub Scout Camp.  There are rules at Cub Scout camp, and each area of camp has specific rules.  When you go to the Archery range, or BB range, you have to stay behind certain lines, you have to listen to instructions, you have to sit when you are asked to sit and stand when you are asked to stand.  But there are only a few rules that cover the whole camp.  Wear shoes, no running except on the sports field, and don’t go anywhere alone.  It is the buddy system, anywhere you go, you always have a buddy with you.

     So within 5 minutes of arriving, I started to remember how important the buddy system was.  Because it was so hot, we were pushing them to drink a lot of water.  Every time we went by a certain building that tended to have slightly colder water than any other place in camp, they filled their water bottles.  At meals they drank a pitcher of water before they could move onto juice or fruit punch.  We did allow them to buy some sports drinks they sold in the camp store, and also allowed them to buy slushies, those half frozen chemical combinations, with lots of sugar and artificial flavors.  This meant that at least every 5 minutes we would hear “I have to go potty.”  Even if we had just walked by an outhouse and we said “Anyone who has to use the outhouse, let’s all go now so we don’t have to leave whatever activity we are going to.”  Didn’t seem to matter.

     And our response was “Bring a buddy.”  They would look around, like they were surprised that, although they had heard it at least 20 times that day already, we had just come up with this idea of bringing a buddy. They would turn to anyone near them and ask “Can you be my buddy.”  The answer was always “Yes” and off they went. 

     Beyond the bathrooms, going to the camp store, going to any activities, they were not supposed to be alone anytime.  Even middle of the night, if they had to go to the bathroom, they were supposed to wake up their bunkmate to walk down to the outhouse with them. 

     For the adults, we also tried to keep the buddy system.  No so much for the short walk to the outhouse, but if you are trying to get 18 Cub Scouts, or even a smaller group, from one place in camp to another, it was a minimum of two people needed.  One to lead the way, and one to bring up the back.  In any activity, if someone were to get hurt, you need one adult to care for the injured and one to watch the other kids.  In the adult scout world they call that two deep leadership.

     And Jesus sent them out in pairs to every town.  As brilliant as this idea is, the Cub Scouts cannot claim that they invented this idea.  Church work is something that you cannot do as a lone ranger.  You need someone else to bounce ideas off of, to pick you up when you fall, to show you the way when you are lost.  And, of course, you do the same for them. 

     One of the other things this week was that we carried our backpacks everywhere.  Every morning when we got up, and got the kids ready for breakfast, we said “Put your bathing suit, towel, sun screen, bug dope, water bottle and rain gear in your backpack, we will not be coming back here until tonight. 

     This was harder for me than it was for the kids.  You see, especially when I am working with kids, I like to be prepared.  I had a pack meeting a few weeks ago, and the idea was just to get together and have some fun.  So I threw some Frisbees, and balls, a whiffle bat, and a few other things in my truck.  Then before the meeting, I thought of about 6 other activities we could do, if we had time.  I think we did two of them.  If you work with kids, you know that busy hands and heads don’t get into trouble.  So you keep them as busy as possible.  So into my backpack went a ball, or Frisbee or something else to keep their hands busy.

     Plus, I am always thinking safety.  So before we leave, I am going to make sure I have in my backpack some basic first aid supplies, just Band-Aids, gauze, an ace bandage, an instant ice pack, just the stuff we may need an emergency.  Plus, I will bring a flashlight, in case we don’t get back before it gets dark.  Toilet paper, in case we go to an outhouse that does not have toilet paper and somebody needs it, and of course a few small snacks for the kids who get really hungry between meals and snacks. 

     But, even with my 15 pound backpack, I was still relying on others for things.  We ate in the dining hall. 

Every meal was provided for us and we were relying on the kitchen staff to prepare and serve meals that would fill us up.  We were relying on the camp nurse to take care of any medical needs beyond our ability.  We were relying on the camp staff to know the rules, teach us, and act as instructors and lifeguards. 

     And this also Jesus understood.  If his pairs of disciples were to go without anything, it should be provided to them.  As I moved through this past week I started to see how all these things were true in Cub Scout Camp and also true for the church.

     I always laugh a little when I read about someone who considers themselves an expert in anything related to churches.  There are church finance experts, church stewardship experts, even interim ministry experts.  I hope you all know that I am not an interim ministry expert.  Hopefully I have some insights, some ideas, some thoughts, but I did not come to Marlborough to be an expert.  I came to spend time with you, work beside you, learn and grow with you.  And the next pastor you call will not be an expert either, but will have some gifts that I don’t have, and will also come to spend time with you, work beside you, learn and grow with you.  Jesus never looked for the experts.  In sending out his disciples, the 70 additional ones he had chosen, he didn’t tell them to go into a town as experts, but rather go into the towns with nothing, go into the towns with a vulnerability.  And Jesus knew that some of these would be accepted, and some would be rejected. 

     Maybe it is about measuring our success, because our success is not measured in numbers.  We are called to go out, in pairs, with nothing and announce that Jesus is coming.  We are called to go out and tell others about what our experience has been.  But even Jesus knew that not everyone would listen to the message.  Our success could be how faithfully we share; not how many hear the message. 

     It is interesting that this passage falls so close to the Fourth of July, also known as independence day.  Of course it is celebrating our independence from England, but those who first came to America from other countries knew that their survival depended on relationships.  Relationships with the Native peoples who taught them what they could eat, what they could not eat, and how to grow crops in this new land.  Their survival depended on their fellow colonists.  Each colony could not produce everything they needed and wanted, so they traded and bartered with each other, and even within a colony, not everyone could be a doctor, and farmer, and teacher, and blacksmith.  Those earliest groups were called Commonwealths.  It is interesting how we have gone from knowing and relying on each other for our common good, to such fierce independence.  Look out for number one. 

     Of course we know that Jesus’ message is often countercultural, especially in today’s world. So it is no surprise that Jesus message of staying in groups of two, and relying on others were his instructions to his disciples and are his message to us today. 

     As we leave here today, I hope that you celebrate independence day, but also view it as an interdependence day.  We are called by Jesus go to out into this world, to spread his message, and we have instructions on how to do it successfully.