Tuesday, January 15, 2013

OT Reflections: Kicking the Can Down the Road

Progress.  It's a tough concept; but it's always the goal ... maybe.  What does progress look like?  Or to answer my question with another question, what does the word 'traditional' mean?  Or how about the word 'contemporary?'

These are all words that have different definitions according to different people.

When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, progress was finally made for the nation of Israel.  Finally, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were on their way to the Promised Land after a long stay in Egypt complete with a harrowing escape.

But through it all, they grumbled.  A lot.  To Moses.  To Aaron.  To one another.  To God.  God carried them through many great obstacles as a way to build up their faith, but when ever things got difficult, the Israelites doubted.  And they disobeyed.

Because of their doubts, the generation of Israelites who led the charge out of Egypt would not be allowed to see the Promised Land.  The nation of Israel would wander, though they would be led by the Lord, for 40 years - until the generation of disbelievers passed away.

There's much to glean from the story today, but I find it particularly relevant as we look at a UMC, particularly in the US,  that appears to be in a wandering period.

What makes me say we're wandering?

The denomination isn't growing in the US, its home base.

The wandering of the Israelites began with unfaithfulness, so where is that we haven't been faithful that got us to this place?  Maybe right here:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “ I've received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I've commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Gospel of Matthew, 28:16-20
As the church doesn't grow, and in some places refuses to, the church wanders.  The thing for us, however, is that it doesn't appear that we have a 40-year sentence over our heads.  In fact, we don't have 40 years to waste.  The UMC today can't afford to kick that can down the road for the next generation to clean up.  And it's happening from General Conference all the way down to the local church.

In worship at another faith community a couple of weeks ago, I heard the pastor pray, "Lord, we pray for our children to have faith, but we also pray for our faith to have children."

Look around at your faith family ...Are you wandering?  What will you do about it?