When I was in my 20s, decades ago now, there were times when I felt awkward talking about Jesus outside of church. It's not that I was embarrassed to talk about him; I was never ashamed to be a Christian and to be a follower of our amazing Lord. But I wondered how I would be heard when the voices who spoke his name most loudly also spoke about him so narrowly. "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and savior?" they would ask. And if I didn't tell the right story in exactly the words the inquirer sought, I would be told that I wasn't a real follower, that I didn't really know Jesus. My story just didn't fit into the tiny box that others were holding up. Jesus' story doesn't fit into that tiny box, either.
During Chaplain Time with the staff of Shrine Mont Camps this training week, I shared my experience and wondered aloud if others had ever had experiences like mine. There were nods and a few stories around the circle. Then I said to our vibrant, energetic, faithful, loving staff, "Don't be afraid to talk about God this summer. Don't be afraid to talk about Jesus. Tell his story as we read it in scripture. Talk with your campers about how Jesus loved the poor and healed the sick and challenged the powerful. Talk about how he turned the status quo on its head. Talk about how he lived and died and rose again for the sake of everyone, everyone, everyone. Let's reclaim the name of Jesus from those who have tried to confine him in a box that is way too small."
Before I even finished the sentence, the room erupted in finger snaps and clapping and cheers. In a Holy Spirit moment, the box was torn open. So often at Shrine Mont, as in The Episcopal Church in general, many have been afraid to talk about Jesus, afraid of how we'd be heard when the name is all too often used for religious or political purposes that are just too narrow. But Jesus is out of the box - he never was good at staying confined! We're talking about Jesus. And that talk changes everything.
By Bishop Susan Goff
Spreading the good news of Shrine Mont Camps into the Valley of the World.
The View from the Mountain is written by a rotating cast of staff writers and contributors.