Looking during Holy Week and beyond

“He’s not here.”

It’s a phrase simultaneously simple and earth shattering; Frightening and hopeful. It’s spoken by an angel to a stunned group: Women who were terrified, mourning, exhausted, and now confused as to what has happened to the body of their rabbi and friend.

For an Illahee Girl, this would be even more shocking than showing up to Dolly’s, walking up to the window excited for some Illahee Swirl, only to be told, “We don’t have any ice cream.”


He’s not here.

Yet this surprising phrase is the cornerstone to the faith on which I, and so many others who come to Illahee cling. It’s the bold reminder that the presence of God is often not where we expect it to be. It’s the Good News that Christ is on the loose, ready to encounter us in new, even strange places, to show us that we are loved, and to challenge us to love others.

Forrest Gump is a favorite movie of mine. I love when Lieutenant Dan asks Forrest, “Have you found Jesus, Gump?”. Forrest responds, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him.”

This summer throughout our weekly worship services at camp we will be looking for God at camp. We will look to the scriptures to see where God has shown up around dining room tables, while cooking pancakes on an overnight campout, at campfires singing songs, out on the water of the canoe lake, and even back in the kitchen around an industrial Hobart dishwasher. The ministry of Jesus, especially during the week before his death and resurrection, is a testament to a God who is not limited to a traditional sanctuary, and in most circumstances, chooses to meet his people where they are.

In my time as a pastor, I was a proponent of the “Ministry of Subtraction.” This art of removing distractions is quite counterintuitive to anyone existing in our modern world. Everywhere we look we are told that if we buy this cream, or add this routine, or join this gym we will find wholeness. At Camp however, we try to simplify. It’s why Illahee proves to be such a powerful arena for young women to explore their own faith away from phones, parents, and the mounting pressures of achievement. We subtract the nonsense and hope to see God not in some distant goal, but right in front of us.

It’s in the same spirit of Ed Abbey’s statement while looking out at the vast landscape of Arches National Monument saying, “In the wild, God is there, and man is not.”

As we begin this Holy Week on what we now call “Palm Sunday,” commemorating Christ’s walk towards the cross, we remember that this was not a straightforward walk. It included an impromptu protest parade featuring a donkey ride, meals with pals with solemn dinner conversation, conversations with strangers, questions from authority, walks in gardens, betrayals of friends, a death on a cross, and ultimately the resurrection. None of these were places where God was expected to be found, and yet Christ was.

We at Camp Illahee want to wish you all a blessed Holy Week. We are waiting with anticipation for our staff and campers to arrive. We are also waiting to see the amazing and unexpected ways our mysterious God shows up within this place we call Illahee.

Peace and Blessings,