Welcome to Camp

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Rick and I have moved to a new neighborhood—that is, our camping trailer has moved, not our home. We have parked the trailer for the season in a campground about a 25 minute drive from our house. In some ways we are different from our new neighbors. Our trailer is quite small compared to our neighbors’ large rigs. We enjoy hiking  and exploring in the nearby state forest while many of our camping neighbors enjoy the various weekend activities right there in the campground. We come on Thursday evening or Friday morning and leave Saturday afternoon; most of our neighbors come later after work on Friday and are just getting wound-up for Saturday cookouts and campfires as we leave. And there are lots of rules about what one can and cannot do in camp.  Camp has its own different culture!

There’s a story in Acts (17:16-34) where Paul wandered through the city streets of a new culture—Athens, Greece—while waiting for friends to catch up.  He was taken aback by the  number of statues and temples to Greek gods that he saw—a little much for a religious Jew and follower of Jesus.  But instead of voicing disapproval, Paul watched, listened and discovered two things he had in common with the Athenians. Paul discovered that the Athenians were very religious, so religiously scrupulous, in fact, that they had an altar to an “Unknown God.”  They didn’t want to miss one!  He also saw how the city of Athens was the center of culture: art, philosophy, drama, rhetoric and poetry, and apparently Paul was impressed by some of the poetry he heard.

By paying attention to what was important to Athenians, Paul found they had something in common.  When the curious Athenians gathered to hear what Paul had to say (they liked new ideas),  he used what they had in common to begin sharing the good news of Christ.  Paul first told them that he knew who their “Unknown God” was, and then he proceeded to tell them about God as creator of the world and of all peoples. He also quoted some of their Greek poets when he said that “in him we live and move and have our being.”

So after reading the story of Paul and the Athenians, I am enjoying finding things in common with my new neighbors, and there are several. Practically all the campers around us have one or more dogs. The neighbors behind us have four! Neighbors meet each other walking their dogs.  We are learning to identify the dogs by their barks.  Most of us have pick-up trucks—we had to tow the trailers into the campground some way.  And we all enjoy eating—often outdoors in sight of each other.

I’m wondering,  if Paul were in my place, what common thing would he consider to be a jumping off point to talk about the good news of Christ.  He was certainly never quiet about his faith.  I haven’t watched and listened enough yet to know the answer. Nor do I have Paul’s gifts. But I am thinking about digging out my bread machine, baking some home-made bread, making some strawberry freezer jam and sharing the results with one neighbor at a time. Surely eating home-made bread and jam is something we all have in common!  I’m praying for some open doors and good conversations.