Monday, August 16, 2004

Move On

Recently, someone handed me an article which appeared in the Abilene Paper entitled “Jesus Kept Moving On; We Need to do the Same” by an Episcopal priest, Tom Ehrich.


Nothing stands still.

Moving on is one of life’s great survival skills. Fall out of love? Move on. Lose a treasure? Move on. Fail at something? Move on. Want more from life? Move on…

Religion has the hardest time moving on. Our current battles over homosexuality are just the latest outbreak of self-imprisonment in fear of change…

We cannot find a shrine where time stands still and ultimate truth is always manifest and always the same…

Where will Jesus be found? In the present, not the past. Moving on to someplace new, a new land, a new day in a familiar land, alongside a self straining to be new. Moving on to someplace else--not the tried and true, but onward, toward a promise,
dreaming of wholeness in the midst of brokenness and life in the midst of death.

If you would seek Jesus, hear the angel at the tomb: “He is not here.” He has moved on. So must we.

Instead of moving on, our Savior lingered. Now that he has ascended, we can cling to him. We are the New Jerusalem where there is no Temple. Instead, God dwells with his people. Instead of moving on, we need to linger, to dwell. We need to dwell with the Scriptures and the traditions of the church to hear the whole counsel of the whole Church. Instead of moving on from the controversial issues of the day, we need to dwell with those who are broken by those issues.

“Moving on” is just a cheap rhetorical device. Concern about the poor? Nah, Let’s move on. Concern about concentrated power in the hands of the few? Let’s move on. Jesus moved on. Let us do the same.

The church has two problems. Sometimes, we major in the minors. We have arguments about silly stuff. We make idols out of programs, style, and buildings. At other times, we make idols out of the current fad or even change itself. In either case, idolatry remains idolatry. “Reformed and always reformed” has been our battle cry, but we quickly forget that we are reformed “according to the Word of God.”

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Newsletter: Is the Honeymoon Over?

“The honeymoon is over.” A few weeks ago, a colleague in ministry gave me this advice. He noted that beginning in August, I’ve been here at First Presbyterian for one year. He wanted me to know that things will soon be changing. He told me ominously, “They are not going to let you get away with as much as you did before.” I responded, “That may be true, but it also means that I won’t let them get away with as much as they did before.”

I have often heard others use the honeymoon analogy when speaking of pastors and their congregations. Many have noted that the excitement of the wedding day soon gives way to the monotony of married life. Likewise, the novelty of a new pastor and a new congregation wears off. Relationships from time to time grow stale. Conflicts once considered insignificant begin to divide and conquer.

Although many have observed these things, both in marriages and in congregations, I wonder why we should expect them as inevitable. True, sin is pervasive, but our God is stronger than entropy. Healthy relationships in marriages and in congregations grow, develop, and mature.
In the past year, my role has been something of a cheerleader. The world needs to know what a wonderful congregation we have. We are hungry for God, and we desire to show his love to the world. We don’t say this for our benefit, but we say it to give witness to the glory of God. We also don’t say this arrogantly. We realize that we still have much to accomplish. In the coming years, our hope is that our worship will become more vibrant, our knowledge of God will grow, our love for God and each other will become more apparent, and our witness to God’s good news will become more bold.

How do we stay out of a rut? The Scriptures use the analogy of marriage, not to explain the relationship of pastor and congregation, rather to understand Christ’s relationship to the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ (2 Cor 11:2, Rev 21:2, etc). Our relationship with the living Savior leads to enlivening relationships with each other. As Jesus himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God is not fished with us yet. The honeymoon is far from over.

Grace & Peace,