Grace and peace are yours from the living God, Amen.
I was wondering this week how you might know when you are around a real live saint. Do you ever find yourself wondering that? Like, we know already from our time together that saints can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can be old or young. They can be from times long ago, or they can live among us today. They can be all different genders and colors and speak all kinds of languages. Saints can be all kinds of things. And so how then, how exactly can I tell when I am in the presence of saints? Because I don’t want to miss it, you know? And I figured there has to be some sort of special marker, or sign to tell me. Some sort of something to let me know. What sorts of things might give me a clue or a hint that I am actually in the company of saints?
Well, I’ve decided that one way, at least, one marker I can use to tell whether or not I am indeed surrounded by saints…..is by smell. Yup. I learned that this week. The saints I know have a verrrrrrry particular smell.
They smell like sweat, and lake water, and horses, and they smell like bug spray, and sunscreen, and campfire smoke. At least this week that’s what they smell like.
I came here this week with a mission to teach you guys all about saints, and I have had so.much.fun. doing that, but really you didn’t need me to teach you about how to be a saint. You knew how to be saints all along. I’ve seen that, every day this week. I’ve seen you, in the middle of your ordinary lives, listen to God’s voice and then do what God says. I’ve seen you be BRAVE, like Mary Magdalene, when you rode a horse for the first time. I’ve seen you choose to LIVE SIMPLY this week, like Francis, when you left your toys and gadgets at home to focus on what God has in store for you here. And I’ve seen you dream of PEACE, like Martin, when you told me about your visions for a world in which EVERYONE is loved and cared for.
I’ve watched you come out of your comfort zones with one another and make new life long friends. I’ve watched you tell each other the truth about who God is. I’ve seen you love on your counselors, on your cabin mates, even when its hard, even when youre tired, even when you have itchy bug bites. I’ve seen you be creative and full of wonder and joy, and I’ve seen you wrestle with questions and seek answers. I’ve listened to your theology and your vision for what the Church is and can be. And let me tell you, this group right here has Sainthood written all over it.
And so yeah, this week, the Saints smell a little bit like bugspray and sunscreen and campfire. They have dirt under their nails and messy braids and they sing songs about “purple stew” and “hippopotamuses” and their hands are stained with tie dye. And you know what? Next week, the saints might look and (hopefully?) smell a little bit different. Next week the saints might be back to school shopping or headed to football practice. But you know what, they are saints all the same. YOU are saints all the same.
Because even though Camp Phoenix feels like a magical place, there is no special ingredient here that turns you into a saint. It doesn’t take a special place or a special time to be a saint. In fact, we are loved by a God who delights in empowering ordinary people, in their ordinary places, to do extraordinary things when they step out in faith.
And so my prayer for you when you leave tomorrow is that you leave remembering that you are indeed already saints, commissioned by God to do God’s work in the world. May you continue to be loyal and faithful and brave, may you continue to care for God’s creation and the poor, may you continue to work for justice and peace among Gods people. And when it seems difficult or lonely, may you remember that you are surrounded by saints. May you remember that you are in the company of a great many saints who have gone out before you, making the way. May you remember, that there are a whole bunch of other saints, right now, going out beside you, to share in the work. And may you always ALWAYS remember that the God who created and called you and loves you also LIVES INSIDE YOU and is with you wherever you go.