Pastoral Ponderings . . .

The idea of “Rally Sunday” became as much a part of the Church year as Easter Sunday. But does it mean the same thing to us today, when so few families with children make Sunday morning church a regular part of their lives?  We as the ELCA celebrate those congregations that still draw enough parents with young children to have Sunday School as we used to know it. But we acknowledge that not all do anymore. Not Tabor. Recognizing and naming things like that has been an important piece of our Visioning process for the past year. We as Mount Tabor look different than we have in the past. In many ways! But I don’t think that’s shameful.  I think it’s both normal and natural, for an organic faith community.                                                                                      

If we think about it, the whole Christian Church in the Northern hemisphere is changing, transforming, re-inventing itself in these times. And I like to think of it as an evolutionary process. We’re evolving.  Becoming something new. I think that’s the wisdom of God’s design. In order to become a butterfly, doesn’t a caterpillar have to be transformed? And doesn’t that take time? Natural science shows us that Evolution takes a great deal of time!

The way I look at history in the last 2100 years, the Church has evolved in the northern hemisphere from a small group of persecuted outsiders worshipping in secret; to occupying the seat of Empire and global military power; then to a de-centralized network of dissenters and reformers; then to a business corporation tracking data as it opens new franchises; to where it is today: trying to name what it’s becoming in the early 21st century.

The whole northern Church is evolving.  But into what? What is Mount Tabor evolving into?  We get to decide that together. That’s a question that creates both anxiety (because it’s the unknown we’re heading into) and excitement: what kind of butterfly will emerge? What is God’s Word creating next?

The good news I hear today as Christ’s church at Tabor, is that being small is no obstacle for God in Christ among us. Just like five loaves and two fish were enough in Jesus’ hands, and all the power and promise of the gospel is present where just more than one are gathered in the name of Christ. To me that means God’s eye is always on the sparrow. God’s unconditional presence in Christ is all we need. And Jesus reassures us that “For where two, or three, are gathered in my name, I Am there among them.”

For me the good news is that when more than one follower of Jesus gathers in humility, acknowledging that no one’s perfect, that only God is God, there the Risen Christ is also .I believe that’s why no matter the circumstances, we can give thanks and celebrate the presence of God’s love among us.

I wonder if maybe this time we are living in is a time of peeling away all the layers,all the previous ways of being Church in corporate America and maybe re-dedicating ourselves to what it means to be the organic Body of Christ? Organic is the adjective I like to use, because isn’t the Body of Christ a living thing just like every organism? And natural science says everything alive is always evolving; from the smallest living thing,  to the biggest. So I guess why shouldn’t the organic Body of Christ, the organic Church, evolve? Why shouldn’t it be “always made new” by God’s design?

Sometimes we can all worry about not being the same as we used to be. Time does that to us! But is a butterfly ashamed that it’s no longer a caterpillar? Maybe it remembers its days when it could only crawl. Does it wish it could go back to being only that? I wonder, if we spoke their language, maybe butterflies would only tell us how amazing it isto be transformed, re-imagined, re-created into something a caterpillar could never imagine:  something that flies. Something that travels farther than a caterpillar ever could.

I believe we’re in our time of transformation and re-creation as a faith community. We live in very different times and circumstances than the first generations of Tabor could ever imagine, don’t we? But what they gave us was a place to be the organic Body of Christ together. They gave us a tradition of caring for each other, and our neighbors, in the unconditional, welcoming way of Christ. A tradition of caring that helped us evolve over time, into new ways of understanding how we can be a more diverse Body.

This fall, as the ever-evolving organic Body of Christ, we’re choosing to “Celebrate the New, and Honor the Old.”We honor the founding energies of caring, stewardship, and joy that give us the ability to imagine a future God is calling us toward. A future we are still discerning together. Because, as the butterfly would remind us, “transformation takes time. ”But time we have. Because the promise that keeps returning us to the round table is that where even just two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, leaning on each other, there the evolving energy of the eternal Christ is among us.                   – Pastor David