"We are almost two decades into the question, 'What will the church of the 21st century look like?' Many mainline denominations are wringing their hands in worry, realizing that the phrase, 'This is the way we've always done things' is leading not to fullness of life, but to what is stale and as lifeless as a tomb with a stone rolled in place. So the question is whether the church of Christ and followers of Jesus can embrace death and resurrection, so that what holds us back can pass away, allowing us to experience the resurrected Christ in new and unexpected ways." - Rev. Tuhina Rasche (March 17 post in BTS Center’s Bearings – ChurchChangeDigital Ministry)
I found Rasche’s quote in a newsletter produced by the BTS Center (a Maine-based think tank focused on 21st-century faith communities. I imagine the quote about “this is the way we’ve always done things” is not new to any of us. Rasche’s reflection suggests that this response needs to be viewed through the lens of faith.
While attending this past weekend’s Super Saturday up in Wilbraham, MA, I viewed again a marvelous YouTube video entitled “Getting to Why” by Simon Sinek. In the midst of that video Sinek reminds us that the Rev. Martin Luther King wrote a sermon called “I have a dream!” and that MLK did not call it “I have a plan!” Dreaming… envisioning… imagining… fantasizing… thinking about something in a new way… creatively thinking “out of the box”… doing something differently than “the way we’ve always done it” - Each of these are powerful choices we make, and yes, they require us to embrace death and resurrection as well. Our need to stay with the familiar and the comfortable sometimes makes it quite difficult for us to imagine the future and to dream out ahead – particularly about the church or our Conferences…
Through my many years as an interim pastor I’ve often told the story about the newlywed who decided to cook a pot roast for a meal. She approached her mother and said, “I’ve always watched you carefully take out the roast and cut off the bottom first… Why did you do that?” Her mother’s response was, “My mother always did it that way, so I always did it that way too. Why don’t you ask Grandma why she did that?” So the newlywed went to her grandmother and asked, “Why did you cut off the bottom of every pot roast you ever cooked?” And the grandmother responded, “It was simply because of the size of the pan I had to cook it in!”
Sometimes, indeed, the way “we’ve always done something” is simply “because of the size of the pan”… Letting go of that “old pan” requires us to allow something familiar to go so that something new can be born. During Lent we are reminded again that Jesus’ death and resurrection invites us into a new relationship - with the risen Christ. Consider what you might have to let go of to be able to dream of a new future – in regard to your own life, in regard to your church, in regard to our Conference.