Friday, August 23, 2013
I saw this one coming, so I pulled my car off the road and took this picture. Yes, you can see from the speedometer that the car is stopped, and that the right blinker is working. I think this is the first time I have driven a car this far. Once before, we came close, going over 190000 miles before we gave it away and bought a van that was better able to fit our growing family.
It took a lot of care to get to this milestone, and I learned some things about cars in the process, like a better way to take care of our tires. It made me think of other milestones, like the 25th anniversary of the ELCA, and the 50th anniversary of our building here at Trinity Lutheran Church. We will celebrate the former with a day of service in our community on September 8, and the latter by fixing the roof and the brickwork.
Continuing to take care of our car will be a challenge as we head on through the next 100000 miles. It's getting older and will require different kinds of care. Being in the church also has some new challenges as we head into the next years. In many ways, there is more uncertainty now, but some things are clear as we look at the changes around us. The church needs to be a more welcoming place in ways that are new. We need to abandon the illusion that we have all the answers, and we need to find new ways of engaging peoples' difficult questions. We will be less like advice givers, and more like companions on the many journeys through life.
I learn a lot from Bishop Jim Hazelwood, who is also celebrating a milestone of being our Bishop for one year. His blog struggles with the many questions of where our church is headed. He also asks interesting questions, and has interesting ways of keeping in touch with people. He is not only influential, but he also has creative ways of sharing his influence. He has worked hard while getting to this first year milestone, and many of us have learned a lot about leadership as he has shared his journey with us.
We are all learning together. Our milestones show where we have been, and we are creating new milestones along the way.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
The Mesopotamians had an annual cycle of life appearing in the spring, coming to flourish in the summer, and dying off in the winter. Fertility rituals in the spring would assure that the earth would bring forth the bounty of new life. The gods were going in circles, and faith in these gods meant following the rituals that assured the cycles continued.
When God spoke to Abram (Genesis 12), the Word was to break any of the cycles Abram had already understood. God called him to move to a new place that God would show to Abram. This God was not interested in cyclical rituals, but rather in a faith and trust that would bring God and God's people (Abram's descendants) together. This was a powerful idea that led to the founding of the world's great faith of Judaism and later Christianity. Muslims also trace their faith origins to Abram, a.k.a. Abraham.
Sometimes today we find ourselves going in circles. Our God calls us to do new things. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning."
Christian churches throughout the United States are undergoing great changes. The patterns we were used to no longer hold the interest of all of our members, and do not attract visitors the way they did in the recent past. We don't know precisely where God is calling us, but we do know that we do not have to run in circles. Sometimes breaking the patterns simply means doing one new thing.
I have encouraged my congregation to read the story of Abraham, beginning with Genesis 12. The rest of Genesis is the story of one very important family, over four generations. You cannot understand Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or the relationship among them without understanding this family. One new thing might simply be reading their story.