The Day of Pentecost
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)
I spent the better part of Friday afternoon listening to a presentation on the fading health of the Church (all Christians) and especially the Lutheran Church. It was presented by the Rev. Dave Daubert, a church consultant, mission strategist, and parish pastor, who was the keynote presenter at our 2017 Synod Assembly. It is no surprise that the Christianity which our parents and grandparents knew is seen as the high-water mark for Christianity – on American soil, at least. Since that time the Church has been in slow decline. Pastor Daubert’s presentation challenged the synod attendees to open themselves up to new understandings about how we engage in mission in a world that is much more like the 1st century culture than the 20th century culture. He invited us to consider strategies and practices and mindsets that might just re-invigorate a Church that has become far too fond of its good ol’ traditions and familiar priorities. I loved it. It appeared that everyone gathered found the presentation compelling. There was an spirit of electricity and possibility in the room … it was palpable.
Then I got in my car and drove back to Lancaster, thinking about all sorts of learnings from the presentation during the drive. I dropped off my passengers and headed home. And as I pulled up behind a green Toyota Corolla, circa 2000, I was consumed by a moment of grief. Less than a week earlier a modest collision led my insurance company to declare my beloved old Corolla D.O.A. Riding around in my “new/used” 2015 Corolla just wasn’t the same. No four-on-the-floor manual transmission … too many gadgets … no worn spots on the floorboard where my heel had helped generate 220,000 miles … a key fob entry I don’t want … no character. I was missing my old car … my comfortable car … the car I knew like the back of my hand … the car of my past. All thoughts of new and innovative ministry in the 21st century were gone, as I lamented the loss of my own automotive past. <sigh>
Such is the challenge we face as Christians living in the world in which we live. We have fond memories of past glories in church life, and find ourselves grieving as those glories evaporate. At the same time, we crave a faith that speaks with relevance to the world in which we live. It is the “push me/pull me” of the life of faith in our time. So in your prayers and reflection, why not try asking yourself a few questions, and see what answers God offers you in prayer: (1) What practices might I be willing to let go of, if it meant that space was crated for new believers and their disciplines? … (2) Can I embrace change that feels awkward and artificial, knowing that such change is experienced by other believers as fresh and exciting? … (3) Where do I see traditions whose meaning is locked into a past generation in which they were formed? Remember that our God is a God of life and vitality who enters the world in which we live, not a world whose best days are long God. God is still working among us.