Camp Fowler, located in the heart of the Adirondacks, sits on a large swath of land, which wraps around the edge of Lake Sacandaga. While Fowler is a place of joy and exploration, there are also many ways a person can get hurt or lost there. Additionally, the half hour drive to a hospital means that medical help for emergencies is not always easily accessible. For this reason, every summer, the summer staff is rigorously trained in Emergency Response, and CPR and First Aid.
Now, each week at camp there can be over two hundred people present in Camp, so if an emergency arises, the challenge of making sure every head is accounted for and safe is a difficult one, to be sure.
Which is why Fowler has the “French Louie” emergency system. The “French Louie” takes its name from a guy named French Louie. French Louie was a hermit, a guide, trapper, and woodsman who died in 1915 in Speculator, NY, the same town Fowler is located. He was said to have been born near Ottawa, Canada, sometime around 1832. A lot of what is known about him is from the oral tradition, passed on by word of mouth. He had a fondness and longing for the “bush,” living off the land, avoiding too much interaction with others, treasuring his solitude and privacy.
If you are in the middle of the Adirondacks, and someone was to yell, “Emergency!” there would likely be panic and chaos that ensues. So Camp Fowler decided to use “French Louie” instead. Every Sunday, when a new group of campers arrives, they are taught that, if they hear “French Louie!” over the speaker system at camp, they are to move quickly to the chapel, where they will line up in their cabins to be counted by their cabin counselor.
The summer staff has different instructions. After every French Louie, is a location, for example, beach, office, meadows, and so on. The location is where the staff must convene for the emergency. The beach was the most dreaded because that indicated a water search for a lost swimmer, which meant getting drenched (most of us wore our bathing suits under our regular clothes!). Every Sunday the campers would be taught what this drill consisted of, and every Monday, a drill was done to test everyone’s preparedness.
I remember one year when we were discussing these drills during staff training, and we were going over the protocol for an injury that required EMS to be called. One of the things you are taught in Emergency Preparedness is to call for help from EMS as quickly as possible in the event of a severe injury (a bad laceration, a fall, and the like). After EMS has been called, it is good protocol to send people to direct an ambulance to the location of the injured person, so you have to move them as little as possible.
Now, from the center of camp to the main highway is a little over a mile, and even the fastest runner would need about 5 minutes to get there! In those days at camp, it was pretty popular for people to bring their bikes up for the summer, to make getting around camp a little easier. So those staff who were tasked with going out to the road to direct EMS in were commanded, grab a bike, any bike, and go!
Of course, because we all wanted to be respectful of other people’s property, we were concerned that this might cause problems. The Director looked at us and said, all you have to say as you are picking up a bike is, “The Lord has need of this!”
This is the kind of situation the disciples find themselves in this morning. They are close to Jerusalem, near their entry, and Jesus pauses. Whenever Jesus stops or pauses, we should be paying attention to what is going on. Much of his ministry and healings are done “on the way.” In other words, Jesus is constantly moving, always on his way somewhere, and in Luke, that place is Jerusalem. So when he stops, there is a reason.
The primary reason that theologians will point to Jesus’ stopping just outside of Jerusalem, is so that the prophecy of Zechariah can be fulfilled. Zechariah chapter 9, verse 9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.” This is a connection that is more overtly laid out in Matthew’s gospel, but it echoes through to this chapter of Luke as well. Jesus, the high king of heaven, must enter the holy city in a humble nature, and what would be more humble than a donkey.
Of course, there is also the correlation with Mary entering Bethlehem on the back of a donkey directly before giving birth to Jesus, so as a narrative effect, this least noble of the beasts sort of bookends Jesus human life.
It is also worth noting that the cry of the people echoes the cry of the angels at the beginning of Luke, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
“In one sense, this is a continuation of the themes of peace and glory in the establishment of Jesus’ messianic kingship that has permeated the Luke narrative from the start. However, in another sense, the change from earth to heaven represents a marked shift in the politics with which Luke depicts Jesus’ reign. No longer is Jesus’ reign (if it ever was) understood to bring peace on earth. Instead, as confirmed by Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-42, it is understood that Jerusalem (as representative of the whole country) is, in its present reality, incapable of living into the real peace of the messianic kingdom. The human divisions are too great” (Allen).
But there is also the sense that Jesus is pausing, just for a moment, to absorb what is going on, to reflect on where he has been, and to prepare for what is coming. Scott Hoezee reflects on this scene and wonders “if someone had looked deep into Jesus’ eyes that day in Jerusalem if they might have seen [a muted sadness]… Palm Sunday in Luke is bracketed by some dark events: ominous words in Luke 19:26-27 and outright weeping on Jesus’ part in Luke 19:41-44. So as Jesus allowed the Triumphal Entry little parade to continue, did his eyes betray the real truth? Did he smile as he received the ‘Blessed is the king…’ accolades but even so displayed a very deep sorrow in his eyes (reflecting the sorrow in his heart, a sorrow that will very soon and very literally spill out)?”
But the question I would like us to wrestle with this morning is: what does Jesus require of us? Jesus expects us to be waving palm branches and singing hosannas from the side of the road, but is that enough? Even if we were ordered to be silent, Jesus says, “the stones would shout out,” picking up where we leave off. All of creation sings joy to God, even if we do not. So what does Jesus desire?
Like the bikes at Fowler… like the donkey outside Jerusalem… the Lord has need of us. It can sometimes be hard to feel that the Lord has need of us, particularly when we are older and less able to “do.” Even if we are no longer able to do the physical things we once were able to, or have the ability to be as active in the ministry of the church as were in the past, there are still ways the Lord can make use of us.
Through prayer, we can lift up one another and our world. Card and letter writing is a gift of encouragement and support that means the world to the recipients. Sharing our stories of faith and how God has worked in our lives. This week, as we walk toward Good Friday and the cross, I want to encourage all of us to consider how Christ is calling us to live out our lives of faith.
It is important for each of us to realize that Jesus is not calling us be the person that changes the world. To have that mindset is completely overwhelming and can cripple us where we stand. Rather, let us realize that it is through the seemingly ordinary, mundane tasks of the every day that the possibility of transformation comes to us.
The disciples Jesus sent ahead to retrieve the donkey likely did not see their task as a very big deal. In fact, it wasn’t a difficult, or even important sounding job. Go, run ahead, grab that donkey, and bring it back. Doesn’t really get much more ordinary than that!
However, it was in this ordinary, routine errand that the world was dramatically changed into a place of holiness. May it be so through us. Amen.
Allen, Amy. “Rewriting the Angels’ Song.” Political Theology Today. N.p., 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
Hoezee, Scott. “Luke 19:28-40.” Center for Excellence in Preaching. Calvin Seminary, 14 Mar. 2016. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.