FROM THE PASTOR
This season of fear and disruption has given me the chance to notice some of the positive traits of our congregation. I would like to point out three of the ways that I see us differ from the people around us.
First, we are not afraid of death. (Some of us are afraid of dying, but that is another issue.)
It should not come as a surprise, but I have been reminded daily how many consider physical survival the greatest of all goods. The authorities, the media and people on the street act and speak as if death must be avoided at any cost. I will not pretend to calculate the damage done by the abrupt shut down of our economy. That is far beyond my capabilities. But I have been surprised at what people will trade for the possibility of a few more days of life.
That makes sense when this life is the only thing they have. We hear the familiar words all the time, “You only go around once.” They just don’t mean the same thing to us that they do on the street. If at best, death leads to empty darkness, and at worse, to flame and torment, then you will avoid it at any cost. No matter how painful, you hang onto the only thing that you know. This conviction lies behind most of the decisions being made for our society. “It’s all worth it if we save just one life.”
We view death in a very different way. It is still a great and final enemy, but it has been totally overwhelmed by the reality of resurrection. Our hope is not to survive forever on this globe. We already have eternal life. Our hope is to be resurrected into power and glory along with all the Saints of God. Death appears to us as a dark passageway, but it leads to realms of light and a much better existence than we can currently imagine. There are many things more terrible than lying down to sleep.
Second, our Church is organic. It has a life and purpose apart from the forms we use to support it. The building is a great asset, but the building is not the church. We are not dependent on ecclesiastical structures or authorities. We are all priests. We each have a personal relationship with the Head of the Church. We expect the Holy Spirit to energize and guide us in whatever form we use to keep in touch. The ministry and witness of the body can happen in any social condition.
I became very aware of this as I exchanged concerns with the other clergy in our city. We are all feeling degrees of stress and isolation. It is natural to want to talk about the problems that are challenging us. As the conversations went on, I kept thinking, “That is not an issue to us”.
We expect the ministry to be done by the members of the body with the power and authority given to us by Jesus. We do not have to struggle to dispense holiness or make sure that everything is filtered through the authorized channel. We are free to just be the Church.
And that is my final observation. We are free. After overhearing an extended conversation among church leaders, Bekky said to me, “We really are free, aren’t we?”
Grace and freedom go together. We boldly claim to be guided by grace. Since our salvation is a gift from God, we can expect him to help us live it. Rules and structures have their place, but the heart of Christianity is a living relationship with the Holy One which continually makes us more like him. We are saved by grace and live by grace.
This means that we are: Free from death. Free from condemnation. Free from obligation to make the church work. Free to get back up when we stumble. Free to help others do the same. Free to encourage. Free to love. Free to risk. Free to wait on the Lord. Jesus said that we are at our best when we are like children. Can we be?