Ambassadors for Zion
Having come off two weeks of fun at Senior High and Junior High camps in Oklahoma, I reflect on the wonderful friends I have made and renewed. I pray for each of those children of the "One True King," while also reflecting on those who wanted to be there but were unable to make it. Both camps were staffed by wonderful Church members who I saw investing in the lives of our youth. The theme for the camps was "The Good News." My hope was we could use each week to become more focused in our personal relationship with God. I was filled with joy to see that each camp worked on that goal. As each camp progressed, the Holy Spirit brought me back to the questions presented in Seventy Bruce Terry’s class at Senior High Camp which used the book, Not a Fan.
I know the "Good News" of Jesus the Christ; who He is, what He did for me, how I am called to respond. This is presented through the Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine & Covenants. I especially like II Nephi 13. I still wonder – am I am responding with my total life, totally responding to the "One True King?" Brother Bruce’s class brought us this question from several stories in the New Testament with different people’s response to Jesus; their response when they had the physical embodiment of the Christ in front of them. They witnessed Him healing the sick and feeding the thousands. They heard Him share the call to His Father’s Kingdom.
In Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18, the story of the rich young ruler is told concerning a young man seeking eternal life. Not the eternal life of living forever in this earthly state, but eternal life of being with God forever: the question "…what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life" (Matthew 19:16). Jesus, seeing into the heart of this good young man, pointed him to the commandments given. The young man reported that he had done these things since he was little; he did not kill, did not commit adultery, honored his parents, and loved his neighbor as himself. But did he really follow the commandments? Jesus called upon him to truly love God with all that he is, and to love his neighbor as himself by saying, "…If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me" (Matthew 19:21).
What do I treasure more than God? Are there parts of my life that I withhold from God, saying this is mine and I will not give it up? For the rich young ruler to sell all that he had was just too much. Giving up his position of prestige and comfort that were his by birthright to pick up the cross and follow? The cross was the symbol of ultimate shame within the first century Roman Empire, for only those guilty of crimes, or traitors, were placed upon it to die slowly and painfully. Where is my reward for doing right? Surely not a cross.
At the end of the 9th chapter of Luke is the story of three individuals who said, aloud, a profession of faith to follow Jesus. The first said he would follow Jesus anywhere He went, but Jesus saw into the man’s heart that having a home to lay his head was more important. Jesus told him clearly that to follow Him meant that the man would have to truly trust God to provide whatever is needed. The second man said he would follow Jesus but first needed to bury his father, to make claim to his inheritance from his father with his presence at the burial. Jesus saw in the second man’s heart that having a fall back plan of earthly inheritance was more important than the Kingdom of God to which Jesus called him. The third man said he would follow Jesus, but needed to first bid farewell to his household. The man placed his household before the Kingdom of God.
I ask myself (and hope you ask yourself), at what price is the Kingdom of God too much? At what price is being a follower of Jesus too much? Am I like those in the 9th chapter of Luke who turned and followed Jesus no more because what He asked was just too hard for them to give? In my heart I long for the Kingdom of God, Zion, which we are called to bring about by our spiritual and temporal acts – the celestial.
I watched with joy as campers and staff alike renewed their commitment to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Now, we each are responsible to put this commitment into practice such that His light might shine forth in our lives.