Thursday, May 31, 2012

The "Dead Church"

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the feast of Pentecost! It’s one of my favorite feasts but it is also a disturbing one!

Scripture gives us the wonderful story of the first coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles by referencing many images of surprise, change, movement, energy, fire, empowerment, understanding of foreign languages. And, today, if we consult Scripture scholars and spiritual directors, they will tell us that the same-- the exact same-- changes, surprises, energy and empowerment are meant also for us, gifts from the same Spirit, to fit our needs, in our specific place and time! That’s the disturbing part of the Pentecost liturgy and truth! But also the most promising part of Pentecost! So, you may ask, how can it be both disturbing and promising? Where’s the missing link?
Recently I received the following e-mail message entitled “Dead Church.” There are times, aren’t there, when we feel we are dead members of a dying church? Let me share this email with you! It seems a new Pastor in a small Oklahoma town spent the first four days making personal visits to each of the members, inviting them to come to his first services. The following Sabbath, the church was all but empty. Accordingly, the pastor placed a notice in the local newspapers, stating that, because the church was dead, it was everyone’s duty to give it a decent Christian burial. The funeral would be held the following Sabbath afternoon, the notice said.

Morbidly curious, a large crowd turned out for the ‘funeral.’ In front of the pulpit, they saw a closed coffin, smothered in flowers. After the Pastor delivered the eulogy, he opened the coffin and invited his congregation to come forward and pay their final respects to their dead church.

Filled with curiosity as to what would represent the corpse of a ‘dead church,’ all the people eagerly lined up to look in the coffin. Each ‘mourner’ peeked into the coffin, then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look.

In the coffin, tilted at the correct angle, was a large mirror.

Am I the missing link? And perhaps you too?

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