16 April, 2009

Shedding Season

If then there is any

encouragement in Christ,
any consolation from love,
sharing in the Spirit,
any compassion and sympathy,

make my joy complete:

be of the same mind,

having the same love,

being in full accord

and of one mind.

Do nothing from

selfish ambition or conceit,

but in humility

regard others as better than yourselves.

Let each of you look

not to your own interests,

but to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:1-4

In my younger years, I owned a horse; I was always amazed at how ugly she looked in the Spring as she shed that winter coat. She would have clumps here and there of that not-yet-shed winter coat, and areas where the undercoat of summer was healthy, shiny, and beautiful. The Church of Jesus Christ is also in the middle of a shedding season. In this new era, we too are called to shed our old weather coats.

Just before the trees shed their leaves, we are amazed at the glory of their Fall colors. Once those leaves fall, we are frustrated by the amount of work it takes to clean up the mess!

Not all things shed gracefully. Certainly my horse didn’t! One of my cats inevitably turns up raw, oozing sores when he sheds because he tries to hurry the process along by over-licking himself.

Faith communities are also less than attractive when we shed: we want to cling to our cold weather coats — our familiar ways of doing and being the church — long after the heat of summer has shown itself. Change does not come easy to us. We put on this coat, and we’re really comfortable wearing it, and we don't want to take it off.

Only when things begin to get uncomfortable do we begin to rethink things. We might adjust a thing or two — take off a sleeve, or maybe roll it up — but certainly not look in the mirror to see just how unattractive we’ve become. And, we’ve grown accustomed to our coat and we're not comfortable exposing the body beneath the coat!

We get not very attractive when change is in the air. We've all met people who feel like they own this coat! And they have earned the right to wear it. They pay their dues and work hard to keep it up. How dare anyone ask them for their coat?! They can't imagine life without it!

But alas, the season is changing around us and beyond our control. We can try to keep the space around us cool so we’ll be comfortable in our coat; but it takes more and more energy to run the cooler, to maintain the status quo. And there are fewer and fewer of us who love the coat so much. You can blame it on global warming, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are no longer engaged in the world around us. No one else wants to put on our coat!

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly in the Realm of God. Not in the world of our own making, not in the coat of our own sewing, not in the comfort of our climate controlled institutions and organizations. We are called to live into God’s Kingdom. And that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with how we reach out to others.

The challenge of our generation is to ready others for the Realm of God. That means divesting of our human made coats and living as the Body of Christ.

May we journey together toward this end.