Yesterday at church, we celebrated our 175th anniversary of the church's founding. It was a wonderful time of worship. Our district superintendent, Valerie Stultz, gave a wonderful sermon, and we completed the festivities with a great dinner put on by our kitchen committee. Such occasions are reminder to me of the convergence of the past, the present, and the future, and how all three are necessary in the movement of time.
Unfortunately, we human beings all too often worship one kind of time to the exclusion of the others. We get so focused on the past that we hope and pray that, at some point, the good old days (which were not all that good) will return to us. Others are so obsessed with the present and the way things are, they have no vision for the future. And still others are so mesmerized by what is yet to come, they ignore the wisdom of the past and the practices of the present time as they move into the future.
I have come to conclusion that the 21st century church often lacks a sense of the largeness of time and our passing glance in the present moment. We have somehow come to believe that it all begins and ends with us and therefore it's all about us. Thus, we are more interested in what we want now, we never consider that what we may want now will mortgage the future of those who will come after us. Those who went before us built a foundation by which we may stand on their shoulders. To often, we in the present think less about how we might enable those who come after us to stand on our shoulders and instead act in a way that what we do in the present moment is about us, what we want, what we think we need. Those who are yet to live will just have to figure it out on their own.
In the next few years, I believe that the church in the West will look quite different-- it will be much smaller and with much less public influence. I am not sure that is all bad. It will give us an opportunity to recover our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The New Testament refers to it as pruning; I like to think of it as burning off the dead wood. The church seems to have forgotten that the present is not the be all and end all of the mission of the church. The past informs the present and the future is what motivates the present ministry. I fear that the church in general lacks the vision for what is needed; for what Jesus called his people to be.
I could be wrong, and I hope I am. But this I do know-- The faithful will flourish and those focused on themselves will continue to decline until they are no more. It did not start with us; it will not end with us. We may be in the present but the present moment is fleeting. The present is just another way of naming the time in which we have the opportunity to make a difference long after we are gone.
After we are all dead and buried, may God find us faithful.
Happy anniversary to your congregation! My church celebrates its 175th next year!
It was a great day! I hope yours is as wonderful.
I hope I see you in SF the end of next week.
Yes, looking forward to seeing you there!
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