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A Sermon given January 20, 2008 at the Alafia River Rendezvous

3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. 4At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, 6he said, “Listen to my words: “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. 7But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. 8With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.”
~Numbers 12:3-8

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
~John 14:6

The Israelites probably set the record for the longest Rendezvous in history. Theirs lasted 40 years in the wilderness, living in tents and cooking out. You remember some of the more important goings on: Tablets of stone with 10 commandments given to Moses, who, by the way, was history’s first recorded Bushway; and then there was manna from God to feed everyone – it must be where the idea of a rendezvous potluck came from; Let’s not forget the burning bush – with all of the trouble we have had getting wood this year, what we need is fire starting God’s way – the burning bush was never consumed by the fire; and last but not least, the golden calf – I think I saw one in a traders tent yesterday.

I don’t know if you struggle as much as I do but I sure wish I could hear God like Moses heard Him, direct, clear and to the point. As Scripture tells us, perfect humility brings perfect communication with God. Moses was the most humble human in the world so God was the clearest with him – What can be clearer than written instructions in stone? And God was with the Israelites as they camped and wandered in that rendezvous to end all rendezvous. My only comfort is in knowing that in spite of all the direct communication with God, Moses still made mistakes and God did keep them wondering in the wilderness, and Moses never actually entered the “Promised Land.” So if hearing everything direct from God didn’t work for Moses, what hope do the rest of us have? Well, there is one thing we have that Moses didn’t have, and that is Jesus.

Now I know Jesus is quoted in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” So I would like to start with this subtle point that first we must gather in His name at Alafia and that will make all the difference this week. To start us off on this thought process, I need to tell you that this year’s message is heavily influenced by a set of very unusual circumstances that go back to last January at Alafia. So for a moment, I would like to recap a few of those.

Rocky Radcliff an old time club member must have known this was going to be his last rendezvous. In spite of his health, he came to camp, to be with friends he loved. Rocky passed away here at Alafia just before the rendezvous officially began. All of Rocky’s friends also looked forward to camping. Yet when Rocky’s memorial service came during the rendezvous, those who new and loved him responded without a second though and left Alafia to support his family. Black arm bands when on and his spirit was remembered with love.

And then there was the morning I found Big Bear, helping a man in his 90’s. He had walked down to the cypress blocks to practice with his hawk but his dementia was too advanced and he couldn’t find his way back to his family’s camp. I joined Big Bear and we carefully extracted several hawks from his grip and each grabbed one arm. This man was struggling just to walk. Our hawk thrower remembered that he was camped near a tree. Now, one thing about our club grounds is that you take a lot of acres right out of the search pattern when you include a tree. After checking out each of our trees, we found a family camped under a tree that laid claim to our wandering frontiersman. I was just taken back by someone who could hardly walk, struggling with dementia and yet, his love of the rendezvous sent him out on an exhausting journey. I would hope that I have the perseverance to do the same when I am 90 years old. What brought this man here? To throw the hawk or to know he was going to enjoy the fellowship of his family and the Frontiersmen?

And then there was the man who I do not know by name. We recognized each other every year, ask about how each other faired since the last rendezvous. How many of us have people we meet like this every year. It was with shock that he told me that his doctor had given up on treating his cancer. So he too, decided that Alafia was the place he wanted to be. Chemotherapy was not working so our fellow camper stopped treatment and came to us. It was at that moment that I really appreciated the responsibility we all share at this annual event. Nothing would please me more than to see him again this year.

My last story takes me to two of our members Doc and Eva Long. It was just after Alafia that Eva had gone on to join our great God when Doc came to a club meeting to shoot. He told me that he could not stand the emptiness in his home and wanted to come to be with those he loved and who loved him. I need to share a secret with you: Doc, in a moment of reflection and with a tear, told me what he most missed after loosing Eva was the just her friendly embrace. For all you, your assignment this year is that if Doc camps or comes to visit us, you need to give him the warmest hug you can muster.

And there are more stories like this I could share. But what’s my point here? There is something that draws one’s soul to this place and to Alafia. We probably could agree that it is in our inner being, invisible, hard to explain but a very, very real force. What is that force? Let’s try to figure this out together.

God has created a world filled with beauty and, unfortunately, with distractions. So God spends a lot of our time, trying to get our attention. The Apostle Paul was kind enough to sum it up for us when he said in Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Some of the evidence I see at Alafia that God is alive and well is:

1. When I look up at the stars. (Adlib story when I was 13 camping with Jimmy Rizer, looking up at the stars and suddenly realized my own insignificance).
2. Our children, especially when the pa tree is filled with children laughing and enjoying themselves. Only God could turn a tree crushed by a storm into a place of joy and laughter.
3. How about one of those Alafia Sunsets? Try to describe that as simply light passing through dust particles. I know that God’s paintbrush will be at work this week.
4. There are probably many others but the one that stands out in my mind as the big one is the love for one another that fills Alafia every year. As Christ Himself said when asked which commandment from God was the greatest, the greatest of these is love. We see it all week long.

Let’s look at this evidence a different way. William Paley (1743–1805) was an English theologian, ordained in 1767 and lectured on moral philosophy. He is most known for his “parable of Paley.” Let me share this parable.

“In crossing a heath (that’s a field a lot like Alafia for those who may wonder), suppose I stepped on a stone, and then was asked how did the stone get there? I might answer, that as far as I know, the stone might have laid there for ever — logical conclusion, correct? But suppose I also found a watch, and was then asked how the watch happen to be here? Is my argument for the rock good enough to use for the watch? Probably not – It’s hard to argue that the watch was always there so why is the same answer not good for both the watch and the stone?

Stay with me here. Our reasoning is based on our inspection of the watch. We see in it things we cannot see in the stone. There are multiple parts, put together for a purpose, to produce motion, and that motion is so regulated as to point out the hour of the day. Our conclusion is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, a watchmaker who formed it for the purpose which we find it functioning, to tell us the time and this brings us its value. So we ponder who thought of its construction, and designed it? So goes William Paley’s parable.

You might also conclude that the watchmaker cares about his watch and is tolerant of its minor imperfections. He is no doubt forgiving of its inability to keep perfect time. Most important, that watchmaker loves his watch and is probably trying to find it.

The first point of my message this morning is that we will all be given a choice this week, to choose from one of two beliefs:
• To see the evidence of God’s Creation, to see God among the distractions of our world. It is a choice we make to believe God cares about us, that God is tolerant of our flaws and forgiving of our mistakes, that God is active in His creation (that’s us), His Creation has a purpose and, most important, that God loves His Creation. We could choose to believe that somewhere, there is, like the watch maker, a WORLDMAKER.
• You could also choose to believe that through the chance mingling of cosmic dust, a world was created. It is similar to the choice you might have in believing that the watch in the grass just happened because the random nature of the winds aligned the grains of sand to look like and function like a watch.

So how does Jesus fit into this? Is He the WORLDMAKER we look for? Is Jesus among us already, waiting for us to acknowledge that He is God’s evidence of God’s very existence? Like the watch, just waiting for us to notice Him standing out in this world filled with distractions, to spot Him in the grass? Repeating, what our Apostle Paul said, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” These are very powerful words.

  • Let’s take a moment and compare Jesus with a few other great deities. To do this, I will use another story. According to an ancient legend, a man became lost in his travels and wondered into quicksand.
  • Confucius saw the man’s predicament and said, “It is evident that men should stay out of places like this.”
  • Next Buddha observed the situation and said, “Let the man’s plight be a lesson to the rest of the world.”
  • Then Mohammed came by and said to the sinking man, “Alas, it is the will of God.”
  • Finally, Jesus appeared on the scene and said, “Take my hand, brother and I will save you — For I am the way, the truth and the life.”

So my second point this morning is that Jesus IS the evidence that our World maker has given us. Jesus is also the World Maker too, not only from God but God Himself. Like the watch in the grass, we need to be on the lookout for Jesus at Alafia.

Which brings me to my concluding point this morning: In a world filled with growing distractions, constant interruptions and a desire for high speed everything, Alafia represents life in the slow lane where we are given time to spot those opportunities to reach out and really care for our neighbors. Not only to see the evidence of God Himself but to become examples of His evidence to those who camp with us this week.

In the simplicity of our camp fires, of tent living, of depending upon each other, we start to understand our MAKER’S WORLD. We start to see the caring and loving for each other that we are called to do; we begin to believe again that we are not the reactive deposit of cosmic dust but the creative design and careful craftsmanship of a master builder, a WORLDMAKER. You see, like the watch, we too were created with a purpose.

Do you want to make this Alafia the best rendezvous you have ever attended? Here is my secret formula for this week. First, trust that Jesus is camped among us. Next, do as Jesus would do, extend your hand and your heart to everyone. Look for Him in all you see and act on His behalf in all you do.

Yes, each of you has a choice to make at Alafia Rendezvous this year, whether you will take the time to seek out God and His evidence among all of the wonderful examples we will have at Alafia. Yes, He is here, in person. There will probably be no other time with fewer distractions to find Christ than this week at Alafia.

You stand at the gate of Alafia and wonder, “Where is the light that will guide you safely through the unknown”