Ablaze and Full of Thanks


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / July 26, 2015

This morning I want to reflect on last week’s summer youth retreat.

We have a slide show/video that was shown during the Bible class time and will be show again after our worship hour.

In addition to this , I will try to paint a picture for you with words.

I want to walk you through each day and share a few of the highlights of this past week’s Camp 2:52.

One morning midway through camp (Wednesday), I was commuting to camp.

I had left early that morning with Sigfried.  We stopped at Fairoaks Cemetery in New Wilmington for a brief walk.

And then I drove the last five miles via some backroads (Covered-Bridge Road and on to Gerber Road).

Fred Chester thought he discovered Gerber Road on a Hayride scouting trip, but I’ve been on to it for about 20 years now.

As I traveled this homestretch to camp, I had a brief personal devotional.

I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving while driving and then sang the song, “Father of Mercies”.

That morning I was deeply moved and found myself overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.

Jeannie and I weren’t able to have a child of our own but God in His goodness has provided in abundance.

We have been blessed immeasurably throughout the years by having our lives intersect with lots of children.

Our minds and hearts are flooded with faces of children who have been touched by camp over the last four decades.

We began our SYR when I was a very young man, newly-married, fresh out of college and just a rookie preacher.

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision something that would turn out to be so long-lasting and life-changing.

Early on, I thought:  we’ll never be able to sustain this - - recruiting enough counselors and cooks, year after year.

Cory Sheldon wrote on Facebook after camp this year these words:

It’s where you can walk into your cabin at 2am and find two little guys asleep on your bunk after a day of

running after Frisbees barefoot and having kids demand you draw sharpie tattoos all over their arms.

I love camp and everyone there.  And then he added something like,

If I ever had to interview for a new job and they wouldn’t let me take off the week of camp, I’d probably decline the job.

I am now the treasurer of camp.

It’s a job I enjoy but an assignment that is sometimes nerve-wracking.

Every year for 38 years we have ended in the black, this past week I feared we’d end in the red.

(We didn’t however, because of an infusion of $900 in midstream).

This retreat represents a considerable investment in our youth.

Over the last 39 years, I can safely estimate that about $500,000 / ½ Million dollars have been channeled into our SYR.

In addition, to the funds, the man-hours funneled into our Camp is quite astonishing in and of itself.

Sometimes, when you’re the director or a counselor or a cook you can’t see the forest for the trees.

My role as a camp gopher - - with an aged companion (my dog, not my wife) - - has given me a new perspective.

Siggy and I commuted to camp every day.

I am now the official camp GOPHER - - I burned two tanks of gas last week running errands.

But actually, sometimes I was just relaxing, using Siggy as an excuse to get away for a little while.

Anyway, back to my main opening point.

As I headed to camp on Tuesday morning, my heart was ablaze and full of thanks and I prayed and sang.

Sing together #51 - Father Of Mercies 

Briefly I want to take you through camp and at the end of each day, Stephen will lead us in a song.


After settling in (which is quite a sight to behold - - it’s a picture of synergy & cooperation), we had a pizza party.

We consumed 28 large pizzas.

Afterwards came The Great Race.

All eight tribes build a boat out of cardboard & duct tape and then race them the length of the pool.

Awards are given for:  best in show…swiftest…best navigator…best flag and titanic.

The evening ended with candle lighting by senior campers and a welcome & exhortation by director, David Brazle.

Sing #704 - Bind Us Together


Mornings begin with hiking, biking, jogging or knee-bends (group prayer).

After breakfast comes Bible class, taught by Michael Donnell from the Falls’ church, followed by small group discussions.

It emphasized the sinfulness of labeling others in bad ways.

It also spoke to the power of God and Christ to make each one of us a new creation, someone very special.

Two theme songs were etched into our hearts, stressing the love of God in making us new.

Cf. Hello My Name Is  and  Never Gonna Let Me Go

This class and these songs were interwoven into our Bible Bee studies.

Luke’s gospel was used to point us to people who had been labeled, yet redeemed by God.

Lk.7/the woman with a hemorrhage … Lk.10/the good Samaritan … Lk.15/ the prodigal son … Lk.19/Zaccheus

Every day is filled with fun & games and crafts & swimming and all sorts of various activities.

And then everyday ends with a devotional:  David Black…Trenton Osborne…Jordan Geiser…Michael Donnell.

Monday PM brought Fred Chester leading the senior hayride down Gerber Road.

Late Nites were overseen by Stephen Flask & Trenton Osborne.

Sing #789 - Father


Horse-back riding and tacking & grooming.

The start of a new event - - our first ever cornhole tournament.

The firetrucks from the Volant F.D. arrived at 5pm for our 200’ slip-n-slide.

Only two minor injuries (a fingernail on a girl and Niko / “I need a doctor”).

The evening closed with fire-side singing & devo … a junior hayride … and late nite.

Sing #176 – Lamb Of God


One of the highlights of Wednesday was Nic Wildman taking the senior campers to a nearby waterfall.

There he spoke briefly to them about the importance of being “big brothers & big sister”.

And, even more importantly, about the grace of Christ in offering us all “Living Water”.

Later in the day was an inter-tribal “survival-of-the-fittest” and our annual “Talent-No Talent Contest”.

The day ended with a campfire devo and junior-hi hayride and late nite for the older campers.

Sing #96 – I Stand In Awe


Thursday featured a volleyball tournament before lunch.

A counselor-vs-camper kickball game before supper.

And then came our “carnival-by-the-pool” with hot dogs, nachos & cheese, cotton candy, popcorn & snowcones…

And inflatables:  a rock-climbing wall … a dueling bungy run … and an obstacle course.

The carnival ended with the release of 80 sky lanterns.

And then the highlight of camp:  Sierra Lehman was baptized into Christ Jesus.

The day ended with a fire-side devotional and then left-overs (Michelle didn’t get hope till 1am) and a final late-nite.

Sing #703 - I Love You With The Love Of The Lord


Friday began early with a staff meeting to select recipients of special citations.

After breakfast was inter-tribal Olympics.  Boy, can Brent Summy eat a watermelon.

After lunch was the Bible Bee.

In mid-afternoon was clean-up.

What a humbling site to see our counselors and campers doing all sorts of menial task.

I was appointed “Inspector General” and escorted Ranger Chad on an inspection throughout the buildings & grounds.

After our awards ceremony many said goodbye and headed home.  Well we kind of said goodbye.

One of our customs over the years has been to stop at a McDonalds after camp.

I had called the Mercer McD at the intersection of I-80 & Route 19 a week ahead to give them a heads-up.

I speculated there might be between 40-60 of us - - I think there must have been 80-90 of us.

Tell about the older couple just a head of us.

One set of parents said (Alan Davis & his wife), indicated “probably not”, but their kids prevailed and they showed up.

We have chosen song #771 - Lord Speak To Me, as our invitation song.

This song captures so of the essence of camp.

All of us are broken.  We are all earthen vessels (cracked pots).

Jesus was sent by Our Heavenly Fathers to make a way back for us:  to reconcile us to God.

Jesus opens the door for us to enter “a new and living way” (Heb.10:20).

He not only forgives our sins and heals our words, He had made us a special people:

sons & daughters of the one true king - - a new creation, re-created in Christ Jesus, brothers & sisters in Christ.

And Jesus also bids us to become instruments of His grace - - to be like Christ to others …

to speak words that are good for edification that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph.4:29).

If you are not a Christian, today would be a wonderful day to begin a new life in Christ Jesus.

Paul writes in Gal.3:27 4 “all of you who were baptized in Christ Jesus have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

If you have never been baptized but desire to do so, we would be honored to assist you.

If you have been baptized but have wandered away, we urge you to come home to God and renew your faith.

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