Monthly Archives: June 2012
It’s hard to believe that things are winding down in Kelowna. It’s seven years, this Summer, since my spouse and I arrived in the Okanagan, and it’s been a fun journey. We’ve worked at being a progressive voice in this area; we’ve also become parents and have begun enjoying the blessing that children are in life!
I’m always hopeful for the future of the church. The future, however, will not be as it has been. There is no “going back” to the glory-days of Christian churches being prominent fixtures in Canadian society. I can’t say where church community will end up, but I strongly suspect it’ll be something smaller – more of the “leaven in the lump” and “seed in the soil” – with influence, but not dominance (whether it was ever that way is debatable).
What I appreciate about Christian community is when people strive for grace-filled living. When people show hospitality and generosity, we start to get at what Jesus was about. When people resist the urge to be vengeful and jealous in their relating with others, we start to let go of those toxic sides of ourselves that so often do nothing but fill us with hurt and regret. When we take the time, on a regular basis, to gather with each other to sing, to eat, to share stories, we show that Sabbath rest is an important piece in our life together.
It’s easy to say that churches should just stop being – perhaps you’ve seen people with Facebook quotes or t-shirts reading things like “tax the churches and give the money to hungry children.” Or, to support the argument that residential schools and abusive priests are products of what churches are about, maybe you’ve seen slogans like “religion is the root of all evil.” Unfortunately, the church is made up of people – even people trying to do good things! Even as people try to set up systems that are helpful and desiring for positive change, we find ourselves also setting up rules and policies that end up supporting an institution more than the people it is intended to serve. So, in the same way government can get bogged down, or in the same way a school district or hospital might over-regulate itself, we churches do the same thing. …sadly, it means that churches – which might otherwise seek grace-filled living – end up spending time and energy on problem-solving.
To those who are critical and passing judgment on Christian community, with little or no experience of it: please come and see! In fact, look up an ELCIC congregation in your area, meet with the pastor, consider giving such a community a three or four month ‘trial run’ and see if there are any folks there with whom you might relate! (You may even find out that a friend or co-worker has been attending there for years!) I’m willing to bet that you’ll find the pastor more open than you may have previously thought! I’m willing to wager that there are some very decent, deep-thinking congregational members who may make good friends!
It’s true: change is happening around us. It’s true: our congregations can not continue as they have, taking for granted a future that resembles the past. Can we move in a new direction? Can we open ourselves to new possibilities and new people? Can we engage the need in our areas, and seek to meet need?
I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in ministry in Kelowna, and to seek to delve into the community around. It’s been an exciting seven years! We had a lovely ‘Celebration of Ministry’ event to observe the end of pastoral ministry, here, on June 9th. We joined for the last time in our Sunday morning Eucharist on June 24th – John the Baptist Sunday. I commend the people of All Saints Lutheran, and their courage to try something new, and I hope that the newness continues!
Peace be with you!
To continue to be in touch with All Saints, go to the community website.
The gospel text for June 17, the Third Sunday after Pentecost, is Mark 4:26-34. I’ll reprint the full text (NRSV) here…
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26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
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When we had our Celebration of Ministry event a week ago, Pastor Eric Krushel (Missions Director for BC Synod) spoke words about our congregation that noted how the community of All Saints has been like a mustard seed – being small, having influence, never growing enormous (“the greatest of all shrubs” is the description in the passage from Mark!) but having significance.
Whenever we hear Jesus speak of ‘the kingdom of God,’ we’re wise to hear it as him speaking in ways that challenge the empire and systems that oppress and lead to injustice (scholar, John Dominic Crossan, has written and lectured extensively on this). It may also be helpful to consider that we are seed (or treasure, or prodigal father – depending on the parable) and without us, the kingdom of God can not take root; like the saying attributed to Augustine: “without god we cannot without us god will not.”
When we hear Jesus describe the kingdom of God as a mustard seed – and even something that does not grow into a massive, imposing thing – we might take from that an image for how our faith might be in the midst of other cultures, faiths, traditions, peoples. We’re not to dominate, but to offer life, hope, compassion. We’re to be a seed in the world. Even as a seed, we may only be the smallest, and yet our life together can have influence and take root and be a place for others to find rest, refuge, and welcome.