Do you know how to find your way if you’re lost in the woods? Start playing solitaire. Someone will always come up behind you and tell you the next card to play. No need for that fancy digital compass, a GPS, or a mobile phone. All you need is a deck of cards. Why do I say this? Because as scouts (and regular people who love the great outdoors-we leave in a National Park after all) you know that hiking and camping are activities you never do alone. You always take a friend, a buddy, and you take great care not to get lost. However, the more people who go along, the more weirdness that’s apt to occur.
What do you pack when you go for a camping trip? According to my scout handbook: tent, sleeping bag, ground sheet, foam pad, sweater, rain coat, sneakers, rain shoes, a change of clothes, a knife, fork, spoon, bowl, cup, toiletry kit, sewing kit, toilet paper, flashlight, Bible ( or suitable prayer book), canteen, camera, songbook, musical instrument, wallet, money, and mosquito repellent. That pretty much covers it. Do you know what’s not on this all inclusive list? The stuff we don’t realize we’re bringing. We take our weirdness with us wherever we go. It’s part of who we are. We don’t even know we’re carrying it. We’re so accustomed to living in our own weird bubble, we think we’re normal.
But then, you have to spend the weekend with other people. You realize other people are really different. There will be a person with the sniffles. His cold might make someone else sick or keep his tent mate up all night long. Another will be a little homesick and sad. Maybe someone forgot to bring socks. Somebody else might be angry at having to spend the weekend in the woods and nowhere near electricity or cell phone signals. Weirdness slips right in between the sewing kit and toilet paper. And that’s ok, because weirdness is good.
Weirdness comes to the surface on scout camping trips. Once on a camping trip to our old scout camp ground, Camp Uwharrie, I found myself tied to a lawn chair with duct tape and gagged with pop tarts. While it sounds awful and it was, until I could start to chew, it was just one of those weird things that happen on camping trips. I was in the seventh grade. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had quite the same love for Pop Tarts. It was weird. But weirdness is good. We need our God given weirdness to survive.
The Apostle Paul, who was kind of Jesus’ first scout master, knew all about weird. He saw weird things, dealt with weird, and thrived on bringing weird to the surface. He wanted the early Christians to embrace their weirdness. He would say to us scouts, “you’ve got to bring weird back to your pack, troop, church, and world.” Why? Because Jesus makes things weird for people too caught up in a world where things are always predictable, planned, normal, and boring. Jesus keeps it weird.
Paul’s favorite weirdoes were a group of people in a town called Corinth. The Corinthians didn’t believe anything about their lives was weird. In fact, they thought their women were strong, the men were good looking, and all the children were above average. Paul burst their over inflated bubble, they weren’t all they thought they were cracked up to be. They had problems. They were a little weird. But that was ok. God works with weirdness.
Paul wrote them a letter, explaining how God works with our strangest habits and weirdness. Here’s what he said: If I have some really weird sounding gifts, say I speak in the language of angels but am a real jerk to people and have no love in my heart, what kind of person am I? Think about that question.
Then he asks them something else. He says, “If I give over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done and don’t have love, what do I have?” That’s kind of a weird thing, isn’t? Somebody who just hands over their whole body to feel good about handing over their whole body, I’d call that weird. If you do that out of your own interest not because you love somebody, why do it? Think about that question.
If I give you a kidney not because you need the kidney but because I want everybody to think I’m awesome because I gave you the kidney, that’s both weird and wrong. You can be weird but you need love mixed in with your weirdness. Most people are not that giving. We call them “generous to a fault”. They give until it literally hurts. It’s a little strange, especially when people give so much for total strangers. We wonder, “What motivates them?” Unless it’s love for their friends, their quirky weirdness means nothing at all.
Here’s one more and it may be the best one yet. Imagine you’ve got more faith than anyone. You’ve got so much faith, you’re the happiest, optimistic, most joy filled person who has ever lived. You are so positive it’s contagious, like when Mr. Sniffles sneezes and gives everyone a cold. You’ve give everyone else faith. You are Mr. Faith. If you said, I believe we could move a mountain, you could do it and people would believe you because you’re so positive. You’ve got the faith. Somebody with that much faith would be a little weird in this day and time. No, I’ll say that would be super weird. Why? Because most people are super negative, depressed, and a little mean. It’s strange to find people with strong faith. When you do come across them, it’s a little weird.
Paul tells his Corinthian friends the weirdest thing is this: to have all that positive faith and lack love. That’s the same as leaving for your camping trip with nothing at all, no sleeping bag, tent, or pillow. You may have faith someone else will bring extra stuff but your ideas about who’ll have more than enough to share aren’t all that accurate. Without love, all that much needed positive faith in our time of negativity is really just a bunch of meaningless words. It’s not really weird at all. It’s someone pretending to care about people with words and forgetting that actions matter too. Paul says, be weirdly positive, and do it in a way that actually matters and touches people’s lives with love.
Love and kindness makes everything better, especially our weirdness. The church is a place that thrives on this special weirdness. We wouldn’t be who we are without it. We need to be weird in order to survive. Weirdness is part of our DNA. It’s in our pockets, in the walls, under the paint, and even in the Bible. We take it with us everywhere we go. You do the same. I did it when I went on camping trips. I had to have my tissues folded just the right way. I wanted the red plastic folding scout cup and the official scout mess kit. A plate in a plastic bag wouldn’t do. That was a little weird. Our weirdness slips in to the rolls of our sleeping bags, like the candy I took on my Order of the Arrow initiation. We need to embrace our weirdness and bring our weirdness back. Because this is what makes us unique!
You know what’s better than bacon? Bacon dipped in maple sugar. You know what’s better than church people being their natural weird selves, church people being their natural weird selves in love. Why, because this weirdness, from our fascination with dipping babies in water to drinking grape juice one a month is a special kind of strangeness: one that reminds us to patient, kind, cutback on the jealousy, kick arrogance in the butt, stop being so rude to people, be less grumpy, and quit keeping score with our friends and family. Do you know about keeping score? That’s when you remember things like, “you made me mad a week ago so I’m still ticked off at you today?” You know what I’m talking about. Our weirdness, the weirdness that makes Church different and unique, makes that wrongness seem so out of line. In the words of Elsa from Frozen, our loving weirdness helps us to, “let it go”.
Paul says it’s up to us, we modern day Corinthian campers, to keep the church weird!