Friday, December 12, 2008

Big and Small...

Sadly, I didn't get to the Friday Five today, although today's entry did get me thinking (always a dangerous thing, for me at least). Today's Friday Five was all about eyes, and seeing, and it got me thinking about what kind of vision church leaders need to have as they call disciples into God's future.

It seems to me that we need to be able to see both big -- and small.

Sometimes it seems to me that the problem is the church is that we don't dream big enough. We are content with small dreams of a few more children in Sunday School; a few new members every year, a new program implemented every other year or so. But God's hope for us is big: God's hope is that we become more welcoming, more inclusive, that we reflect more and more what God's kingdom really looks like. God sees every person in our community as precious and beautiful and beloved. God sees us respecting each other and forgiving each other and helping each other to live a good life. I want our congregation to reflect that dream.

But sometimes it seems to me that the problem with the church is that we don't see small enough. Sometimes we get discouraged about where we are right now -- some of us don't pray enough, and others of us don't seem to have time to be involved in issues of justice in the community, and few of us have the time to be involved in a formal Bible study. But that's because we don't see the small signs of faith, and the small signs of faithfulness, the small signs of God's movement in the congregation.

They don't see the young woman who is joining the youth mission trip for the first time this year. They don't hear the stories of young families who want to live here because they want their children to live and learn in a diverse, multi-ethnic community. They don't talk to the woman who has cultivated relationships with members of the hispanic congregation that worships here.

There are times I wonder if the church will go on. There are times that I think if it does, it will be totally because of God's grace and love and forgiveness, not because of any special virtuosity of ours. I think of many ways the church is "blowing it" -- we have our fingers in our ears, and we are closing our eyes to the pain of the world, and we are not answering the questions of the world.

There are times I wonder if the church will go on. Will young people in the next generation think that it is important to come to a church, and to sing songs and liturgy and pray together with other people, and see this vision and work for this vision of a holy kingdom of love? It seems so old-fashioned.

But then I see a few pictures in my mind: I see a picture of two young girls, sitting together in the first pew of Small Church, South Dakota. They have the worship book open in front of them, and they are singing at the top of their lungs. I also see a picture of a young couple whose wedding I conducted a few years ago. She was from a church background, but he wasn't. They moved away for graduate school a few years ago. I finally caught up with them and discovered that they now have two small children, and are active members of a city congregation. I also see pictures of the people from India who have started attending our congregation, reminding us of all the places that God is working.

Sometimes I think that the problem with the church is that we don't see big enough. And sometimes I think that the problem is that we don't see small enough -- to see that in the midst of our dreaming, or our lack of dreaming, God is at work in us and among us, to bring peace and grace and love -- finally and forever -- to earth.

12 comments:

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

an excellent, thoughtful, and honest approach... depends on the day or even the moment whether our vision is too big, too small or entirely out of focus... hopefully, some things become clearer quite soon.

Border Explorer said...

What a beautiful essay!

Songbird said...

Yes, we can't get anywhere by focusing only on the small or the big. You are so right.

FranIAm said...

Diane you never cease to amaze me. This is so brilliant.

First of all, your writing is excellent... and the points you make just go straight into my heart.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Balance is so important. I love the idea that maybe we don't see small enough.

Rev SS said...

I love the way you think ... and articulate your thoughts. Thanks for another excellent reflection!

RevDrKate said...

Thanks...I needed to hear this. I was feeling sort of discouraged about my place and there is much in what you say that goes to the heart of what is right about us as well as what we stuggle with. Good food for thought.

Lindy said...

Very good points Diane.

I think it has ever been thus in the church. Always, we are one generation from being a thing of the past. I really believe that the only thing that keeps it from going under is people like you worrying over it. By thinking, and blogging, and being concerned over it... somehow God honors that. So it continues.

And, as usual, I agree with Fran. This IS a pretty amazing Friday Five.

Barbara B. said...

great thoughts!

Jennifer said...

Oh! I love this post!
Wha a treasure of a statement on balance and vision.

LawAndGospel said...

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. And I wonder if we are willing to make room not for fear, or questions, but for hope in faith and that God's words are enough. Still pondering what you have said here and glad to finally get back to your blog.

afeatheradrift said...

Thank you for this. You covered a lot of important issues in a thought way!