The Final Hurrah!
And it’s just a box of rain. I don’t know who put it there. Believe it if you need it. Or leave it if you dare. And it’s just a box of rain or a ribbon for your hair. Such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.
This will be my final weekly reflection for the St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. It’s been a relatively brief, but rewarding, journey. My family and I greatly appreciate the love and kindness the congregation has showed us since we visited more than two years ago. We sincerely wish St. Paul’s nothing but the best moving forward.
Change is tough. Transitions are not easy, nor are they meant to be. As long as the “desire for more” exists, change will be a constant part of life. And this isn’t a bad thing. But what exactly are we looking for? I ask myself that question pretty much every day – what is it that I want? And is “it” even out there?
Noted theologians the Grateful Dead put it this way: “I have spent my life seeking all that’s still unsung. Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see” (From their brilliant song, “Attics of My Life,” which actually has nothing to do with Jesus’ Parable of the Sower).
Author C.S. Lewis prefers this syllogism:
- Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
- But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
Conclusion: Therefore, there must exist something more that time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire. This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”
Mileage will vary on your interpretation of that, of course. I’m not going to try to convince you that Lewis is correct. I tend to side with him on this, but you may not. And if you see it a different way, you’re not wrong. But even if, for argument’s sake, there is what Pascal would refer to as “a God-shaped vacuum” in our hearts, what if God can’t fill that hole Himself? Then what? Do we give up?
Some of us (myself included at times) tend to be so outcome-based, or goal-oriented, that by the time we reach the finish line, we’re too emotionally depleted – or burnt-out – to enjoy the reward. I experienced this phenomenon in a way last January upon my ordination. I wanted to complete my program so badly…so desperately…it would be such a relief when I crossed the finish line…then I reached my goal. And absolutely nothing changed. I was miserable for a solid two weeks.
If we are constantly living in the “What’s next” neighborhood, we’ll never enjoy the here and now. And that’s a huge problem.
Perhaps the lesson I learned from this (and you have learned somewhere else in your life) is that the process itself may in fact be more valuable than the final product. We wrestle with that. We wrestle with the enjoyment of the journey vs. the obsession of the destination.
So may we continue to wrestle. May we continue to find joy in the everyday people, places, and things of our lives. But may we also search for a better future. Particularly in the church.
Let’s dream together. Let’s dream of a way to walk out of the dysfunction of the dominant system and create new possibilities.
We live in a broken world. People are hurting. Our neighbors are isolated, disrespected, and marginalized. People who have traditionally felt abandoned by the church are now speaking up. May we remember that Jesus spent a great deal of time in the company of those struggling with rejection, hopelessness, or feelings of insignificance. As Jesus demonstrated, we are called to reach out to these people. To meet people where they are, not where we expect them to be. Where they are physically, emotionally, spiritually, or socially.
Is the church as it exists right now becoming irrelevant? Maybe so, maybe not. Did a pandemic expose the flaws of our old way of doing things and force us to make necessary adjustments? I’m not sure, but I will say this: those congregations that showed a willingness to change are in considerably better shape than those who refused to budge even a little.
Allow my parting thoughts to be these: There is a major difference between the Church and Jesus. To quote a fellow minister, “Christianity has become a culture unto itself and has merely skimmed over what Jesus has said and is saying.” Amen. There are entirely too many followers of Christ who are more concerned with rules, regulations, fundamentals, inerrancy, and “The Big Lie” than they are about love, grace, community, interpretation, and The Greatest Commandment.
Love one another.
Embrace the LGBTQ+ community, and if a church or company does not support same-sex marriage, run far away from that church or company.
Understand fully why God is not an American God.
Black Lives Matter.
Mental health is incredibly important. Give yourself a break.
Keep searching…you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for.
In His Name,