As we enter a new decade, a new year, I’m pondering what we will be focusing on during this new year. The words from our brochure, our ‘mission’ or ‘identity’ statement come to mind: “sharing the faith of our fathers in the words of our children.” What does this really mean?
For some, this would mean keeping the same things happening year after year. Would not that most likely align with “the faith of our fathers,” to simply do the same things over and over? If it these events, these ways of doing things conveyed the faith of Christ to our forebears, would those same things happening also not convey that faith to our children?
For some, the focus would be on “the words of our children.” To speak in a common vernacular that embodies all that our children know and understand would be the manner in which we ought to teach them, in the words they understand from today’s world. Programming would look different than it might have been twenty or ten or even five years ago. The visuals and the music would sound differently than that which we heard in the past.
There must be, I think, a melding, a bridging of what has been and what is in order to come into what will be.
We are on the precipice of a new age…in fact, I think our world has been broaching this unknown “next” for a decade or so. The rise of nationalism, the rise of justice workers, the angst that sits between our political parties, the anger that comes from being dismissed and feeling unheard by another, the spiritual schism between compassion and corporate indifference…these call us as God’s Church, as people of Christ, to look away from the world and live into the commandment to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor fueled by a passion that comes from the faith we have learned throughout our lives. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1) and yet even in today’s world, we want to hear that God is doing X, Y, and Z so that we can offer proof and cling to a legalism of faith that says when I do X, then God will do Y. This is not the faith of the settlers to the Smoky Valley. They took on a venture that had no certainty of outcome. You and I get to embrace that same uncertainty as we face a daunting budget for our congregation, as we look to God for guidance on how to go about outreach to the community by sharing what we have with those we do not know. You and I get to live into the uncertainty of God’s preferred future for us even as we rely on the faith we have been taught by those who came before us, teaching and modelling and living their faith in the best manner possible.
On the ski trip, I was really grateful to ride with my son, a mixed group of youths, and Ericka Lysell. Ericka has a very eclectic play list of songs that she listens to frequently. She can sing along with rappers and top 40 hits, she likes Elvis and Ice-T equally and sings with gusto. This is the way I envision our faith lives being lived and passed along…that we find the words and the music, the talents and gifts that are so varied that folks look at our lives and say, “wow! That is an eclectic group of folks at Messiah. I bet even I could fit in with them.” Our welcome to the world will not come through the events we offer, although those provide introductions and openings for people to participate. Our welcome to the world comes through our daily lives and the integrity and Christian focus we offer through every interaction we have with the world, in a language that can be understood by everyone…a language of love, of hope, of forgiveness, of humility and grace. It comes through rappers, through operatic arias, through humming and through the simple rhythms of life lived in faith.
Here are three translations of Colossians 3: 12-15:
“12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[a] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ[b] dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (NRSV)
“12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. 15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!” (The Message)
“12 So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; 13 bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. 14 Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others]. 15 Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].” (The Amplified Bible)
Each of these translations has merit and offers the same message with different expressions that allow readers and hearers to understand the Word in new ways. Each of us speaks our faith differently, pointing people to the one Lord and Savior who loves and forgives us all.
Let us, this new year, strive to express our faith in ways that the world can hear us, in the words of our children, so to speak, that what we do in our community as a congregation who believes in Jesus Christ, might resound and reverberate throughout this place, opening God’s message to all in new and amazing ways.
Peace be with you in 2020, dear Church. ~Pastor Amy