Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unwinding a Past that Holds a New Church

"Do not be deceived," the Word of God says. "God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow." We certainly are reaping a bitter harvest for the last 25 years of conspicuous consumption; and the harvest is far from over. The consequences of the economic bankruptcy of the U.S.A. have not even really begun to be felt-- and already many are asking, "is it over yet?" This will unwind for years-- perhaps decades-- as the generations that did not enjoy the excesses that generated the debt receive the privilege of suffering to pay it.

Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. We are watching a venerable-- perhaps in American history, the venerable-- institution of Christendom slowly evaporate. The Presbyterian Church (USA) and all its preceding branches once represented the strong Christian current that de Toqueville said flowed through American life. As that stream abandons its former course, venerable stone piles become nothing more than available real estate, thousands of bright-eyed young folks bankrupt themselves to discover that there is no institution ready to embrace their dearly-bought pastoral skills, and many middle-managers in the gleaming GM corporate superstructure at 100 Witherspoon and 173 presbyteries find out that there is no place for them.

But do not be deceived. The vast current that de Toqueville described is still present-- at the moment it flows underground. But there are places where, like an Artesian well, the Living Water is bubbling to the surface. Serving in such a place, with such a people, is an amazing privilege. Christ is still opening hearts and minds, healing lives; the Holy Spirit is still breathing through the Word into homes, offices, schools(!) and communities.

The PC(USA) is unwinding-- it will take years, maybe decades. We, who did not enjoy the heyday will spend our working lives in the dusk and night that have succeeded it. But even now, glimpses of dawn are visible on the periphery, here and there. You reap what you sow-- "preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words," as Francis of Assissi put it. The opportunity to obey Christ and to sow seeds of eternal life is always right in front of us. The Holy Spirit that created the vast current on which we have lazily floated is still moving. Join Christ where He is active around you on this Pentecost, and trust that when harvest time comes, neither Christ nor you will be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. Clay, recently someone said to me "bloom where you are planted" and then she said, "I don't know why I said that", but we both knew it came from God. We were talking about how hard it is for me to leave my family at OCPC. The words were exactly what I needed to hear. Jesus Christ is with me wherever I am and He has work for me to do. All I have to do is listen and I will hear what it is He wants me to do. I thank you for leading me to know Him!

    On Christ's Love,