Scripture: Isaiah 45:1-3 (NRSV)
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him -- and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
About a month ago, I had the chance to take a walk down to one of the beaches in the area at what I realized was low tide. I had aimed for the beach in order to take a few moments to pause in the busy schedule of my life as an Interim Pastor. As I stood there, I marveled at all the seashells that were revealed, but I also delighted in watching the seagulls who were walking across the low tide sands and pecking into the exposed sands and feeding and feeding and feeding. They were filling their stomachs, knowing that in a few short hours, the tidewaters would return and cover the source of some of their favorite nourishment.
As I stood there, I was mindful of recent conversations at the local church I am serving, as well as the current conversations filling many of our news sites about the lower attendance in our congregations and the implications on the programs, finances and ability of congregations to maintain their livelihood in their current sanctuaries. I've read and heard about the challenge that the scheduling of sports events on Sunday mornings has caused; I've read about the less interest in faith communities due to countless reasons.
I was looking at the exposed tide and hearing a message coming through that perhaps what we are experiencing in the life of our faith communities is a "low tide time"... and not realizing the gift that is here.
Do we realize that at low tide, we can now see exposed the real treasures of our congregations and properly name and honor all that we value so much? At low tide, we can view those events and worship services that 'the remnant' (as the exiles in Babylon were called when they were given the chance to return to Israel and rebuild their homes and Temple) are sustaining and supporting with their gifts and talents.
Or are we more focused on the negative worries and wondering what to do to attract more people in?
I'm thinking -- maybe we are invited to recognize the gift of this 'low tide season' and offer thanks for all of our treasures that we can now so clearly see, so that when the tide begins to return, we're prepared to welcome those who come seeking and are hungry for the spiritual gifts we can offer.
May God bless us with the eyes to see and the heart to love as we serve in Christ's name. Amen.
Interim Pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC in Westbrook, Connecticut