Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.
Day 82, June 3, 2020
“The truth shall set you free”
The Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina was founded over 100 years ago as a place set apart for spiritual rest, renewal, and recreation. I learned this at an introductory seminar I attended when I visited Montreat in the summer of 2010. The introductory seminar recounted the development of the camp. Milestones along the way included the establishment of a college and the organization of a Presbyterian Church. Billy Graham lived in Montreat. His presence drew visits from presidents and various dignitaries. When Billy Graham’s wife Ruth died, her funeral was held at Montreat’s Anderson Auditorium.
I was taking this all in when something was mentioned that grabbed my attention. Assembly Inn is the majestic centerpiece of Montreat, where many conference participants are housed. All the conference meals are served at Assembly Inn. It is the hub of activity for Montreat. It turns out something else took place at Assembly Inn which is a painful reminder of a dark time in our history as a nation.
In 1942, Assembly Inn was used to house 290 Japanese and Germans who were interred during World War II. I was surprised to learn this information for several reasons. I was surprised simply that Assembly Inn’s history included being used as a detainment facility. I also found myself surprised that Montreat made no effort to hide that fact. It was included in the presentation. Later, when I looked up the history of the camp on the website, the information was included there as well.
Along with being surprised, I found myself being grateful. I was grateful that Montreat made no effort to sweep that chapter of history under the rug. Nor did they attempt to justify what took place in those days as something that could be explained because of the times we were living in and the fear that gripped our nation. No, they simply acknowledged a painful chapter in the history of both a Presbyterian conference center and a nation.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John that we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. Every one of our lives has painful chapters. There are times we do not live up to the standards we set for ourselves, and we never live up to the standards of the God who is known for his holiness. We disappoint God. We disappoint others. And we disappoint ourselves
Too often we use huge brooms of denial and justification to sweep our sin and shortcomings under the rug. That is no way to be set free. Jesus calls us to acknowledge our sin, to bring it to the light, and to let the truth of the gospel set us free.
Montreat is a beautiful place. I loved the hikes. I loved the streams and waterfalls. I loved the endless mountain ranges and the canopy of trees. I loved the beautiful Lake Susan in the middle of the camp. But most of all, I loved being reminded that we do not have to run from our past or cover it up. When we acknowledge the truth, the truth that we are broken people in a broken world, our God has an amazing way of setting us free. That is the joy of the new creation that comes through Jesus Christ. That is the joy of God’s redeeming love.
The youth of Dunn’s Corners Church have attended summer camp at Montreat many times. I do not know if our youth are aware of how that Presbyterian Conference Center has modeled acknowledging the truth and allowing the truth to do the miraculous work of setting people free from a painful past. I do know this. Our youth returned from summer camp several years ago and went to work on organizing school assemblies with our youth leader Michael Walton. The rallies are called “Speak out to Reach Out.” The rallies affirm the value of each person, the dignity of each human life. To students who live in a world that can rip apart your self-esteem and strip away your dignity, the rallies brought a message of hope. The rallies brought a message of hope for all teens, of all colors and cultures and backgrounds. The truth was at work setting people free. Now our youth have come together with committed adults in our church to plan an outreach to Ghana. Bridging a gulf that spans more than just a mighty ocean, God is at work uniting the lives of people from different nations and different ethnic groups and different cultural norms. The truth is at work setting people free. The truth is at work bringing people together.
Recent events have exposed difficult and painful realities about who we are as a nation. Thinking of how our friends at Montreat acknowledged the truth of their role as a place of internment in WWII, I am asking myself what truth do I need to acknowledge? What truth do I need to own? What truth needs to set me free to live into the fullness of life that Jesus promised. In these dark and difficult days, Jesus holds out a promise to us. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
With the love of Christ,
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