With apologies for the substandard audio quality, here is Kit’s sermon from Sunday. Listen!
… and, here’s the text …
I don’t preach very often, so when I prepare I have the luxury of looking back over everything I’ve said before. Preparing for today I realised that the last several times I’ve preached, the sermon was based on stories about hiking.
Now, I’ve struggled with the morality of organising Cartophiles walks that take us away from church on a Sunday. I’ve talked about this with Chris, and he’s reassured me that there is more than one way to worship God. I certainly feel very close to God when I’m in the bush, and I guess the fact that my occasional sermons are based on hikes means there really is a strong element of worship in my bushwalking.
So, on that basis … who’d like to hear a hiking story?
Last month James Loxton and I walked from Mt Victoria to Govett’s Leap. This is recommended to be a three day walk, but since it was just the two of us, and we’re very tough, we decided to do it in two days. We walked past the planned day one campsite to make our way to Acacia Flat, the campsite for day two.
It was a pretty tough walk and we finally arrived at Acacia Flat well after dark. It may surprise some of you to know that it was also quite cold. Actually it was really, really cold. Who’d have thought it would be cold in the Blue Mountains in June!
As we walked into the campsite we could see several fires, with people wearing headlamps around them. We hauled up between three campfires, and pitched our tents. James was a bit crook so he lay down in his tent to recover.
Now, here’s where things got a bit weird. The Cartophiles typically reach our campsites pretty early. Usually people come in after us and we invite them to share our fire. That’s just the way it is. That’s just the way we expect it to be.
But this time we arrived late and, surprisingly, no one invited us to share their fire. I sat alone in the dark and cold eating my “arrival treat” and looking longingly at three fires all within about 25m of me. After a while the three people at the nearest fire walked away. I thought they’d left and gone to bed so I collected a bit of firewood, went over and stoked their abandoned fire. James came over and joined me and we had a cab sav or two as we warmed ourselves.
As the fire grew we realised there was a tent nearby. It turned out that the three people had merely gone to collect firewood themselves. When they got back we learnt that they were a family: Simon and Alison and their 11 year old son, Joseph. After they put Joseph to bed Simon and Alison joined us at the fire. Their hike that weekend was training to walk the Overland Track in July. James and I recounted our recent experience walking the Track, including details of the accommodation huts, as we shared a drink with them.
The next morning James and I were up before everyone else, so we lit the fire again and, as each tent roused, invited them to share the warmth. Not everyone took us up on the offer, but we had several pleasant conversations we would otherwise have missed. As each set of walkers left the campsite there were warm farewells and offers of good luck.
Later, as James and I climbed out of the Grose Valley, I thought about the experience. If we hadn’t pushed our way into the fire circle the night before we never would have had that sense of community; everyone would have remained separate little campfires not sharing experiences and knowledge, not wishing each other luck, not helping each other along the way. And I realised how that reflects our society.
Most of us huddle around our own metaphorical campfires, keeping ourselves warm but often never thinking to offer our warmth to others — probably not even noticing that they’re cold or in the dark. Maybe we do notice, but we’re protecting our campfires and those of our family around it … like our 11 year old son … from a potential risk, even if we don’t really know that the risk exists. It seems easier that way.
That’s not the way the Cartophiles expect it to be. That’s not the way we should see it.
Today’s readings are about being one people, about breaking down barriers, “… You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” As Christians we are called to share our campfires. More, we are called to reach out to others and help them share their campfires. We are called to seek opportunities to share comfort with others.
So, look inside yourselves and think about the last time you may have failed to share your campfire. Think about when we here at St Johns may have failed to notice someone alone and cold and failed to offer warmth. Look more widely at our country and think about how well Australia shares its campfire.
We are diminished when we huddle in our small groups without sharing. We are even more diminished when we leave the latecomer to camp sitting alone in the dark and the cold. Worse, we are not doing what Christ has asked us to do.
I won’t belabour the metaphor any more than this. I had a moment as I climbed a hill where one of God’s truths came to me in the image of a simple campfire. I’m sure you can find the same truth as soon as you think about it.
We are not doing the right thing if we leave others sitting alone in the cold and dark. It’s our duty to share our campfire. Remarkably, we learn and are enriched when we do … and it’s more fun when we share. And underneath it all, as God shares His campfire, I think He wants us to have fun.