Guest Writer: Larry Burton, Love of Jesus
“I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus, down in my heart.” George William Cooke, I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy Joy, 1925.
Memories are a way of discovering where God has been active in our lives. Of course, we have to be willing to bring them to mind, both the good and the not so good. Summer brings its own particular set of memories.
This summer I am reminded of summer camp. My mind easily traverses the years back to the 1950s and a particular summer camp in Southern Indiana. There, amidst the rolling hills, rivers, caves, and farm land was Rivervale. It was a church camp, and every summer we went there for at least a week. Sometimes we went with our friends, other times we were reunited with those we saw only once a year. Looking back, I can see what a sacred place it was (and I am pretty sure it still is)!
Thinking back, I realize that at Rivervale’s very center was the Tabernacle, a huge, open-sided building large enough to see at least a couple of hundred—maybe three hundred—people. That it was at the geographical center was not a mistake, for that was where we started and ended each day, with prayers, scripture, a brief homily, and singing. Always there was singing. “I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus, down in my heart,” we would sing time after time. As many memories as I have of the wonders of nature, the gifts of friendship, the wisdom of the elders, what I remember most is the physical pleasure of singing, and the physical sensation of having the “love of Jesus, love of Jesus, down in my heart.” I can feel that still.
That memory haunts me—as it may haunt some of my friends from 60 years ago. Though we were young, they were still spiritual friends; friends with whom I explored what it meant to follow Jesus, what it meant to see God in each and every part of Creation. And now, all these years later, in a time when my heart breaks for those who are separated, abused, used, lonely, frightened, angry, frustrated, and worst of all despairing. It is the memory of church camp, of that physical tingling in my chest as I sang…as WE sang…”I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus, down in my heart,” that still gives me hope. I hope it does for my friends from long ago, too, because God was surely, and IS surely, at work down in the hearts of God’s people.