April 11, 2017

Lent 2017: Day Thirty-Six

Week Six: It’s the End of the Church As We Know It

Reflection for the Week: How can I develop courage to cast a vision for a new church?

I am always struck at how Jesus teaches us to live in contrast to what the world expects, and often to what we expect. In worldly terms, setting up a condition that the only way to be first is to be last makes no sense; these terms are by earthly definition mutually exclusive. But then, Jesus does not want us to define ourselves by earthly understandings.

I remember back in the early 1980s when I was organizing a Conference-wide Christian Education training event in Los Angeles. It was a one day event with worship and workshops, and the designers wanted some clergy to be present as “Resident Theologians” with whom people could have conversations on the theme. I put in a call to Rev. Romeo (Romie) Del Rosario to see if he would be willing and able to fulfill this important role. When I called Romie, he greeted me with his usual warmth and enthusiasm, and when I asked him if he could serve he said; “Yes! Thank you, John. Let me commit myself and then see if I am available.” His statement made no earthly sense! It made divine sense, because it inverted earthly expectations.

Romie’s response put offering himself to others first over protecting his own agenda. It is an illustration of what we need to be as the church going forward. Not that we shouldn’t set healthy boundaries, but too often we in the church are not open to something new and unexpected because we are too busy trying to maintain what we have or get back to what we had. This preoccupation can cause us to miss the opportunity to move on to something we have not done or been before. Something unexpected. Something life giving and new.

Tiffanny Arbucle Lee and Wayne Kirkpatrick have written a song called “God Shaped Hole” that speaks of the void in each person that only God can fill. To fill one requires and outpouring from another. If the church is to be the living hope of Christ to a despairing world, we need to pour ourselves out into our surrounding communities finding ways to fill the “God Shaped Hole” in others.

Prayer: Gracious God, You have filled me with you Spirit. May I now go out, pouring out your love for others. Amen.

Rev. John Farley
Dean of Cabinet
California-Pacific Conference