Friday, January 2, 2009

Learning to tell time . . .

Tomorrow in recognition of the beginning of a new year, I am preaching from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14 about the cycle of life . . . moving into the cycle of life of the local church . . . this comes on the heels of my finding out that the church where I was a charter member and who I was under care of in seminary is closing its doors in March of this year . . . if the presbytery approves it.

Before Katrina there was a move to do this . . . membership was around ten . . . although no longer a member of that presbytery I heard that a fairly new member of this smaller membership church made an impassioned plea on the floor of presbytery to keep it open . . . and her plea was echoed by the pastor of a sister church (mid-sized) about 20 miles away . . . so Presbytery kept the church open . . . after Katrina God graced the presbytery and this church with funds to bring in a bright and forward thinking Minister of Word and Sacrament . . . the church yoked with another church in the same town . . . the yoke didn’t work -- it was one-sided . . . the church changed its name . . . and the woman who gave the impassioned plea to keep the church open, her family and her sister’s family left the church shortly after Katrina . . . the church wasn’t able to help them the way they wanted after Katrina . . . Remember, membership was about 10 -- most of them her family and Katrina had done a job on the entire area.

As I have shared this news with folks here they have offered their condolences . . . telling me how sad I must be . . . but I’m not . . . I am nostalgic . . . but more than this I think “what ifs?” . . . what if the organizing pastor hadn’t left? . . . what if after that we had called so and so . . . What if we really understood what it meant to be a church . . . like many churches it was, for a large majority of us, about us . . . not about those outside our doors. When we were doing the mission study for calling a new pastor I remember the fights . . . over whether or not we really wanted to grow . . . If we really wanted to fulfill the mission of the Church and the local church . . . to go into the world and make disciples . . . It is the same struggle that continues in so many congregations, including this one . . . Yes, we want to grow as long as we don’t have to change.

But life -- whether a human life or the life of a local congregation, is about change . . . we are always changing . . . Change is inevitable . . . The question is will we manage change depending on God’s leading us through or will we change drag us kicking and screaming or worse yet passively into the future . . . If the church is alive and organic then they have life cycles just like human beings . . .

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

This new year I pray that we will learn to tell time,


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