Is there hope for the church? Today.. I think yes!

There are days when I think I have wasted most of my life caring and nourishing the church - it can be SO life-defying and cruel - but today was not one of them. In fact, this weekend reminded me (AGAIN) of why I have given 35 professional years to the church (3 years of internship in seminary and 32 years as an ordained clergy) to say nothing of 15 conscious years as a lay person (and lots more before I had a choice!) 

Yesterday was the dedication of a Habitat for Humanity house - the 29th home for the Central Berkshires chapter - and it was joyous and humbling time.
Here's a picture from the invitation (and here's a link to the article in today's local paper @ Members of our congregation worked hard on this house - as did others from the wider community - and a few key church members made certain that there was a special basketball hoop up in the back yard for this young man's development! It was a moment of quiet grace and deep faith. As Clarence Jordan used to say, "Faith is the turning of dreams into deeds." And our faith was made flesh (and bricks and mortar and more) for this family.

Worship was equally tender and rich: we spoke of knowing our place in God's cosmos and how that liberates us from shame and fear. We are PART of life - not the core - but a beautiful part of it. The music we sang and played touched me deeply. And who among us could not smile and pray as our friends James and Ashley - soon to be parents for the first time - sat in the center of the Sanctuary while Newell read these words from St. Paul in Romans 8:

The joyful anticipation deepens. All around us we observe a pregnant
creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Throughout the whole worship celebration I kept thinking to myself: God I LOVE these people! There are times when I wonder if the institutional church has a place in God's redemption of the world, but today I knew THIS group of saints and sinners did! Later in the day, I gathered at a local microbrewery with one of my favorite colleagues for a time of conversation, carping and celebrating the strange and perplexing calling we share. It, too, was healing and sacred time. 

My colleague and friend, Carlton, reminded me after worship that this week marked his THIRD anniversary! What a blessed journey this shared time has been - and there is much more to come. After his wedding in 3 weeks (and time away to rejoice and rest) we'll embark on both deeper sabbatical planning and a host of other music-making excursions.

So much of the institutional church all around me feels dead and destructive: moribund is the word that keeps coming up. And well it may be, but there is clearly something new, hopeful, filled with joy and hope being born within and among us. And today I rejoice that I have been give a chance to be a part of it all. (Here's a picture of me with some of the climate change young people who are at today's demonstration in NYC>)


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