Category Archives: 2015-01

Pastor’s Pen for January, 2015

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.  (1 Corinthians 13.11) As we begin a new year, many of us will be engaging in the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions.  While some of us will give thoughtful consideration to the resolutions they make, others will treat it as an exercise in futility, knowing that most resolutions will be lucky to survive the month of January.  It’s not that the resolutions we make aren’t well-intentioned and worthy of pursuit, but we just seem to sabotage them much too easily. Behavioral scientists tell us that the primary reason we don’t make the life-changes that we know are in our best interest is due to some conflicting primitive motive that lies just beneath our conscious awareness.  For instance, our inability to lose those extra 20 pounds may be due to a stronger unconscious desire to free ourselves from the dietary restrictions once imposed on us by our parents.  Therefore, unless we recognize the childish desire that betrays our adult intentions and honor it in more appropriate ways, then we’re bound to continue to struggle to make those important changes we need to make in our lives. This seems to be exactly what Paul is getting at in the passage quoted above.  Spiritual maturity involves leaving behind those childish behaviors that hold us back from enjoying the fullness of life that Jesus makes possible for us.  Paul knows that as children, we learned to obey established authority, avoid conflict, play it safe, and protect our security whenever possible.  But he also knows that, in Christ, God sets us free from our self-centered concerns and enables us to love and serve others, regardless of the risks that may involve.  For Paul, new life in Christ begins with our willingness to leave the past behind. This is true for individuals, and also true for the church.  A growing majority of the population is turning their back on the church because they perceive it as too reluctant to leave the past behind.  They see the church today as too reluctant to abandon the rituals, music, art and architecture of an earlier century in order to follow the Holy Spirit of God that is alive in the world today.  They perceive the church as trying to drag them back into a type of retro environment that is alien to the world in which they live today.  It’s not Jesus they’re rejecting, but only the cultural anachronisms that distract them from the kind of relevant lifestyle that Jesus himself embodied. The challenge for churches today is to free themselves from the illusion that the church of tomorrow should look like the church of yesterday.  If we listen closely to the voice of God’s Spirit, we will hear it calling the church to new and innovative expressions of grace that will speak to the children of our modern world.  The challenge for individuals who have turned their back on the church will be to free themselves from the illusion that their negative stereotypes of church life will always be true in the future.  God is calling allpeople to a way of life characterized, not by doctrinal homogeneity, but by trust, hope and love.  Our longing for those things transcend all national and religious boundaries.  But to achieve it, we must leave some childish things behind.  We must open ourselves in deep and fervent prayer to the God who makes possible all those things that elude our best efforts and intentions -- things like love, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and community.  May that be our New Year’s resolution!                                     -- Duane