Saturday, August 3, 2013

How the Presbyterian Church is Like the Space Shuttle.

I have decided that the Presbyterian Church is like the Space Shuttle.

There are many people who remain upset - or at least disappointed - that the Space Shuttle has been mothballed.  A few even think NASA went out of business.  On the contrary, shutting down the Space Shuttle was a good and necessary thing.  The Shuttle fleet was getting old.  AND it limited us to low earth orbit.  It is time for us to have the ability to go back to the moon, to Mars and to asteroids.  As long as we had the Space Shuttle, all we were going to do would be within the confines of low earth orbit.

The problem is that we are in a lull.  The Orion is still being developed, but it is an exciting program. New Horizons spacecraft is still on its way to Pluto but it won't be much longer!  Private industry is doing amazing work on developing low earth orbit vehicles as well as asteroid and lunar explorers that will send people where no one has gone before.

So what does this have to do with the Presbyterian Church?  Our membership is declining.  Same is true with the Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal and all other mainline churches.  Things that worked decades ago no longer work.

The Presbyterian Church, and other mainline churches, have been comfortable in low earth orbit.  It is time to move forward.  We serve a living God that is doing amazing things.  The fact that we don't fully comprehend what God is up to should not bother us or fill us with anxiety.

Denominationalism is changing and the structures we have now may soon be mothballed.  The church will continue.  We are built on the rock and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

How we do mission, how we create new churches, how we provide for pastoral leadership -- everything is changing.

And it will be okay.  The church will continue in new structures and organizations, but it will continue.  We were, after all, built on that rock :)

Remember Ezra, chapter 3?  Ezra is a book of the Old Testament, and in chapter three the people have rebuilt the Temple.  When the builders laid the foundation, there was a ceremony.  The priests show up in vestments.  The  musicians start playing their trumpets and banging their cymbals.  People started singing. 

Now here's the thing - the text says, "many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy."

Get the image?  The people who remembered how it was "back in the day" when the Space Shuttle was flying and Synods in the Presbyterian Church actually had a reason for operating were sad that the past was past.  The younger generation not bound by the way things used to be and work were happy.

And the strange thing comes with verse 13:  "No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away."

Do you understand what verse 13 is telling us?  

Me neither. 

But I know this.  We can grieve at the fact that a new Presbyterian Church is emerging,  Or we can rejoice.  The world will hear our noise and it will sound the same to them.  

As for me, I think I will do a little of both - shed a tear and shout with praise.