Conversations about the Future

Grace and peace.

I have been thinking a lot lately about God’s plan. I’m sure it has something to do with the preparations for Sunday’s sermon on predestination. But as you recall, predestination is all about God’s plan for the End, when God will be all in all, and the creation is redeemed, and we are restored to what we were always intended to be. The plan I’m thinking about is different from that, more earth-bound and time-bound, but no less significant.

I’m thinking about God’s plan for this congregation. We are celebrating 200 years of ministry in Franklin, and Presbyterianism in the United States (and the colonies before that), is even older. We have rightly spent a good deal of our time celebrating that heritage. But Presbyterians can never settle for longing looks to the past – our eyes are ever forward, discerning what God desires for this church that is “reformed and always being reformed.” In congregational gatherings, small group settings, and one-on-one conversations, I hear certain themes emerging –

1. A deep commitment to hands-on mission, local and global – the days are gone when Presbyterians were content to write a check and let hired mission workers do all the work and report back once a year. More and more people in this congregation are joining together in small mission groups to listen for God’s compassionate call to serve. Water systems and relationship-building in Haiti and Guatemala, disaster relief in New Orleans, youth mission in Asheville and Cherokee, Meals on Wheels, and Graceworks Christmas Store are just a few examples of the ways we are already engaged in hands-on mission. The Mission Committee dreams of increasing these opportunities and fully funding them so that the people called to mission work do not have to spend their own money to do it.

2. A firm resolve to worship in the Reformed tradition that calls forth the gifts of all our people – the days are past when worship centered on the pastor and the choir, and the congregation were passive observers. We are blessed by the full participation of the congregation in a rich liturgy and vibrant singing. We are a church that loves traditional worship, but we are not afraid to creatively utilize all the worshipping arts within that tradition. Many sense God’s call to utilize the gifts of children and youth, the worship expressions from other cultures, and a greater awareness of the richness and depth of the Reformed tradition. With Sarah Litton’s addition to the worship staff, and the continued excellence that Julia McGirt brings, we are positioned to answer God’s call in Reformed worship.

3. A renewed sense of the importance of intergenerational bonds – no more are the days when the church operated in age-defined enclaves, never interacting in meaningful ways. In the educational, mission, and worship ministries of this church it is becoming more and more evident that the best learning and the strongest sense of growth and fellowship is happening when people of all ages engage with one another. Whether it is in an all-age Sunday school experience, where ninety-four year olds swap stories of faith with four year olds; or the confirmation program’s Covenant Partner ministry, where life-long friends are made between sixth graders and their adult partners; or in the youth ministry Wednesday Night Live Small groups where adult leaders share their journey weekly with a small group of youth; or in the significant growth that occurs in mission side-by-side between young, middle, and older adults; God’s Spirit works among us most powerfully when we are together across lines of age.

These are just some of the themes that I hear in my conversations around this community. What do you hear? What decisions do we need to make in order to realize the big dreams we believe God has for our future? Is it time to retire our mortgage (right now we spend $140,000 a year on the mortgage, 14% of our congregational budget)? What would our congregation’s ministries be like if we were free of that debt? What are the areas in our life that you see needing attention? Do you have ideas for how we can get there?

These are the questions in the air at 101 Legends Club Lane. We have a rich history. Generations before us made great sacrifices in faith in order to make our ministry here possible. What is the call of our generation? How can we assure that Christ’s mission in this place will be strong and fruitful for our children and grandchildren, and the people who will come here long after we are gone?

Look for opportunities this fall to gather and talk about these and other questions. But in the meantime, why not start the conversation now? Write me and let me know what you think. Post on the congregation’s Facebook page. Comment on my blog. God’s will is known among us when we join our voices together.

Peace,
Pastor Chris

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Anniversary

Tomorrow, July 8, Kim and I celebrate 22 years of marriage. True to form, while most husbands on such an occasion would reach for Hallmark cards and chocolate, I turn to apocalyptic theology.

The writers of some of the earliest Christian literature wrote out of a sense that God was on the verge of creating a new day, and that the world as they knew it was a dim reflection of the world to come, like looking in a darkened mirror. Paul wrote poetically about the fact that everything – all our vaunted knowledge, all our gifts, all our possessions – all was passing away. All that is partial gives way to the complete. “Now I know only in part,” he wrote. “Then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known…And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three – and the greatest of these is love.”

I believe that all experiences of love in this world are a foretaste of that new day when God will be all in all, including the experience of love between husband and wife, parents and children, among friends, and in the covenant bonds of the community of faith.

God is at work in our loving, sharing something of the Divine mystery and inviting us to grow in love. So I hope you will cherish the opportunity to love, no matter the setting, and never take it for granted. Love is the reason we exist, and it will remain when all else is past.

I am thinking about all these things as our anniversary approaches, but mostly I think of Kim. She is a blessing to me in every way.

LOVE is enough: though the World be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass’d over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.
– Thomas Lux