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That They May Be One

Posted by on July 12, 2019

That They May Be One

by  Craig Higgins, Resident Theologian

Click on Photo to see a short worship video

Just before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for us, and he prayed for something specifically: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). Jesus prayed that we, his followers, might be one so that the world may know the Good News.

One of the things that I love about camp is that—at Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost—we work very hard to practice the unity for which Jesus prayed. And we do this so that campers and their families might hear—sometimes for the first time, sometimes in a deeper way—the Good News, the gospel.

Another thing I love about camp is that, for several years now, I have had the privilege of helping with “Staff Week” (which is actually the better part of two weeks) by teaching the amazing people that God raises up to serve as our summer staff. This is—year after year—a group of young men and women who love Jesus, love camp, and love campers.

Bible Study at Camp Deer Run

But this group is very inter-denominational, representing just about every denominational affiliation that you can think of! And one of the points I stress to them is that while we are an explicitly Christian camp we are also a broadly Christian camp. We stress the importance of not dwelling on those things that separate us as Christians but on what we have in common—and that those truths we hold in common—the Trinity, the Incarnation, the atoning work of Christ—are, in fact, the most important truths! We emphasize that “the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing,” and that the main thing is Jesus and the gospel.

Deer Run Sunday Night Vespers at Inspiration Point

This ecumenical emphasis can be life-changing. First of all, I’ve seen staff discover that the Body of Christ is larger than they realize, that Christians of other denominations are truly their sisters and brothers in the Lord. And the campers discover that, whatever their church background (or none), they are loved and welcomed.

Camp is a beautiful example of Christian unity in practice! But, of course, this doesn’t make our “unhappy divisions” (in the words of the Book of Common Prayer) go away. What can all of us—in our homes and home churches—do for Christian unity? Here are three things:

First, recognize the unity of the church. Remember that what (Who!) unites us is more important that what divides us.

Second, pray—daily!—for the unity and reunion of the Body of Christ.

Last, fellowship! I am a member of a Christian organization (comprised of Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and just about everyone else) in which we all commit, at least monthly, to working/talking with Christians from outside our immediate faith community. Building inter-denominational friendships is a great way to recognize our unity and to be reminded to pray for it. Plus, it’s fun!

And if you want to see a good example of genuine ecumenism—genuine Christian love across the sad divisions of the church—come to one of our camps. Here, we believe in the unity of the Church and we do our best to practice it every day!

Dr. Craig Higgins is the founding and senior pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in the Westchester suburbs of New York City. Whenever possible, however, he is at camp, where his nametag reads “Resident Theologian.” His wife, Ann, serves year-round as camp’s Director of Development. They have three young adult children, all three of whom were campers, and all have been either LDPs, on staff, or both. You can find him on email, craighiggins@trinitychurch.cc

 

 

 

Christ’s Desire on Good Friday

Posted by on April 19, 2019

Christ’s Desire on Good Friday

By Zane Kang, Brookwoods Alumnus

“With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

That’s what Jesus told his disciples over dinner, right before he was betrayed. And though it may sound a bit funny, that isn’t a typo – that’s a literal translation of Luke 22:15 from the Greek. For obvious reasons it’s usually rendered “I have eagerly desired” (NIV) or “earnestly desired” (ESV). But “desire” in the Greek is a fairly strong word; if the context were different, it could even be translated as “covet” or “crave” —it’s a profound longing. All this to say: Jesus really did earnestly desire to have this meal with his disciples.

Why? Why did this meal mean so much to Jesus?

…If you think about it, we actually put a good amount of time into thinking about who we want to eat with. We pore over our calendars and text up a storm trying to make meet-ups happen. We do this, intuitively knowing that meals are significant, and we tend to remember our meals with people—whether it’s with a loving friend who can make us laugh and lift our spirits, or someone who’s a bit of a wildcard who sometimes makes it hard to keep the food down because you’re never quite sure what they’ll do next. And when it’s to celebrate a special event like a wedding or a holiday, all the more so we find that we remember those; whether we want it or not, our minds have already hit the ‘record’ button and the memories are etched into our minds forever, whether good or bad.

For Jesus, this is His final meal signaling his stepping into Good Friday—the day He changed history. The day the curtain was torn, and the new covenant in His blood inaugurated. Multitudes now with their sin forgiven could run and fall before the throne of the living God and actually call Him “Abba”…Father. And the Father would lovingly forgive and accept them; the world would be restored to loving fellowship with Him once again. These disciples here at the table were the ones who were with Him the entire time He unwaveringly made his way toward this mission; they would soon finally understand what He had really come to do, and see the full extent of His love for them. Certainly, a meal commemorating that was worthy of some anticipation!

But, also ask yourself…how well would the food be going down your throat and settling in your stomach, when you knew that in a matter of hours, you would be betrayed by one of your own, falsely accused, spit on, beaten up, the flesh of your back torn into a bloody mess with a brutal torture whip, have a ring of spikes shoved onto your head as a cruel joke until you bled, made to carry a 100lb log to which you were literally to be nailed, through your hands and feet, those nails being the only things holding up the entire weight of your body, the very weight which will cause you to suffocate to death while you listen to everyone who hates you glare and yell insults at you, your life escaping you breath by laborious breath, blood-drop by blood-drop. And you deserved none of it; this was a sacrifice on their behalf—but an incredible darkness would begin to encroach upon your soul as the Father Himself turned His face from you, and everyone who had promised to be by your side to the very end will also have completely abandoned you….the very people, in fact…who are sitting at the table with you, right now, having dinner!

In the very final hours of Jesus’ life…these were the folks that He earnestly desired to have a meal with?

…In these sacred last moments of Jesus’ life—at the Last Supper, and then at the cross—we see a picture of that paradoxical truth of Hebrews 12:2 captured right before our eyes: “for the joy set before Him, [He] endured the cross…” Such a height and depth exist in those few words, a height and depth we could never know, a height and depth that only Jesus Himself could traverse. But on this Good Friday, may we ask the Lord to help us step into it, if even just a little bit. Because our God is one who desires to be with us and is not diminished in the least-even though we were the very reason for His suffering on the cross.

Zane Kang served as Camp Pastor to Brookwoods and Deer Run in the summers of 2014-2016, his wife Elisse joining him in 2016 to help the office staff. Zane has been working as the Director of Small Groups and Young Adults at Park Street Church in Boston; he and Elisse are preparing to be sent as long-term missionaries to Japan in the near future. zkang1008@gmail.com

3 Ways Into a Holy Lent

Posted by on March 8, 2019

3 Ways Into a Holy Lent

by Matthew Kozlowski, alumnus

Most Christian holidays have joyful greetings: Merry Christmas! Happy Easter! But as for Lent…not so much. I’ve never had someone wish me a “Happy Lent”. This 40-day season before Easter is unique. Yes there is joy, but the deep meaning of Lent is found in prayer, self-reflection, and growing closer to Jesus.

Ok, so Lent might not be the most fun season of the Christian year. But think of it this way: Lent is like the camp worship song “Days of Elijah”— it’s coming whether or not you’re ready.

How might you live into a holy Lent this year? Here are three suggestions:

1. Take an Inventory
As a Brookwoods counselor, I remember the last days of camp when we cleaned and put everything away. All supplies had to be counted, whether they were sailboats or Nerf balls. What was missing? What was in good condition?

In Lent, we do the same thing, but with our spiritual lives. We take inventory, asking: What’s bringing me closer to God? What’s drawing me away? What don’t I need anymore? What’s broken? What’s working well? This process may sting a bit, but it can also feel really good—especially, if we ask God for the grace to be honest and the strength to make changes.

2. Consider Others First

The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert, fasting, praying, and resisting the devil. Notice how Satan tempted Jesus to do miracles that were self-centered tricks: feed yourself by turning stones into bread…jump from a height and be caught by angels. Jesus refused. He knew that his power was mainly for the sake of others. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, ESV).

In Lent, we follow Christ’s example by considering others before ourselves. Be generous, not just with money, but with time and intention. Write a card, send an uplifting text, or take an extra minute to call. A friend of mine once said that Brookwoods was the first place he knew where people asked, “How are you?” and really meant it. That’s the kind of spiritual generosity we can practice in Lent.

3. Give Something Up, for the Right Reasons

It may be old-fashioned, but I still give something up for Lent. Some people give up chocolate, or Facebook, or the snooze button. This is good. But it’s important to ask: what’s the point? If the goal is self-improvement, I think we miss the mark. Lent should not be a 40-day diet or self-help program.

Instead, Lent is a time to grow closer to Jesus Christ, full stop. Giving something up helps us focus on Jesus, and lean on Him. Think of it this way, when you remove something from your life, how will you fill that empty space? A wise minister told me that when he fasts, he prays for the Holy Spirit to fill him. The Spirit always shows up—you can count on it. Just like “Days of Elijah” showing up at the end of camp worship—you count on it.

The Rev. Matthew Kozlowski is an associate priest at All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, MD. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Danielle, and two daughters. “Koz” was a counselor at Brookwoods and Moose River between 2002-2005, where he taught sailing and wrote mildly amusing skits for the Staff Special. matthew.koz@gmail.com

Epiphany

Posted by on January 11, 2019

What Is the Epiphany and How Do I Celebrate It?

Craig Higgins

“I’ve had an epiphany!” Have you ever heard someone say that? I don’t know that I’ve ever said it, but I’ve felt that way—the excitement of new insight breaking through my thick head! An epiphany is a manifestation—a disclosure of something not previously fully seen. For Christians, the Epiphany is a festival day—and an entire season—in the traditional worship calendar. And what we celebrate is God’s full disclosure of His love for the whole world.

The Epiphany is celebrated on January 6—the first day after (yes, just like the song) the Twelve Days of Christmas. The focus is the visit of the Magi, the Wise Men of Matthew 2. In some places, this is the day (sometimes called Three Kings Day) on which gifts are exchanged, remembering the gifts brought by the Magi to the Christ Child.

Remember: The Wise Men were Gentiles, the first non-Jewish people to worship Jesus! This event, therefore, is an epiphany of God’s love for the whole world—the revelation that Jesus is not only the Messiah of Israel, but the King and Savior of all the nations of the earth. The Epiphany season then lasts from January 6 until Ash Wednesday.

 

Celebrating Epiphany

First, don’t cut Christmas short; celebrate all twelve days! In our house, we set up our creche well before Christmas—but baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas Eve. Similarly, our three Wise Men start on the other side of the room and only make their appearance on the Epiphany!

Do something special on January 6. One tradition is to bake a King Cake, in which some trinket is hidden. Whoever gets the trinket wins a small prize—which could be a book, or simply the privilege of not doing the dishes!

Last—and most importantly—the entire Epiphany Season is a time to focus on the church’s global mission. Matthew’s Gospel opens with Gentiles worshiping the Christ Child, and closes with Jesus sending His church to make disciples of all the nations. So, during the Epiphany season:

  • pray for missionaries, especially those in distant or difficult places.
  • pray for the mission of the church—including the mission of camp!
  • consider ways that you can make a special offering in support of the church’s mission.

Maybe you’ve known about the Epiphany for years; maybe this celebration is new to you. In any case, why not make it a part of your year? After all, don’t we all need to be reminded of God’s amazing love for the whole world?

Dr. Craig Higgins is the founding and senior pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in the Westchester suburbs of New York City. Whenever possible, however, he is at camp, where his nametag reads “Resident Theologian.” His wife, Ann, serves year-round as camp’s Director of Development. They have three young adult children, all three of whom were campers, and all have been either LDPs, on staff, or both. You can find him on email, craighiggins@trinitychurch.cc