The First Church of Bob
It turns out that Jesus responds to a similar question today in our Gospel lesson.
Jesus and his disciples were outside the temple in Jerusalem, the center of their faith.
The temple was the place where God’s presence resided. It had stood for centuries, built by King Solomon with the finest of materials.Marveling at the construction, Jesus’ disciples exclaimed in awe. “What large stone and what large buildings!”
But Jesus quashes their amazement. “You see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Jesus then goes on to make more frightening predictions about division, war, and disaster.
But this is not the end, Jesus says. “This is the beginning of the birth pangs.”
Against these hopeless and frightening predictions, Jesus identifies a new beginning.
It’s like childbirth—a new life. It does entail an ending—in fact, the temple was destroyed in the year 70. Judaism rearranged completely, with the Pharisees taking the lead in moving the majority of Jewish practices into the home. The end of the temple completely reoriented the early Christians too, who were mostly Jews.
With historical perspective we can see that Jesus was right:
In the ruins of the temple lay the seeds of the both the church and modern Judaism.
But it is not so easy to have such clear vision when you are in the midst of it.
Jesus paints a picture for the disciples, not to scare them, but to remind them that God is in the ending, too. “Do not be alarmed,” he says. There is pain, but there is also birth. A beginning. I am here.
It is such an important message for us contemporary Christians. In so many ways, we here at St. Matthew are blessed: We have 11 adults involved in Sunday school; 9 confirmation students; adult forum and Wednesday bible study 5 lay adults involved in youth ministry; 15 council members Committees that organize outreach beyond our walls, manage the business of church, and provide opportunities for fun, sharing, and caring.
In so many ways, 20th century church is still functioning here at St. Matthew.
But we are in a new century, and we need to be ready for the changes that are already occurring. We are investing in a new associate pastor coming
In many ways, it’s a 20th century model 21st century pastors are often bi-vocational and part time. But we can deploy Pastor Brian’s efforts in an outward looking way—a 21st
century way—Just as we are retooling all our ministries to consider the community outside our walls, rather than simply focusing on who is here already.
This is why I am so grateful not to be in the First Church of Bob—or I guess in my case, the First Church of Julie. Because I need—we need—the wisdom and partnership and support of other Christians. Our bishop has taken the gutsy stand to name the changes among us He did so in his paper which our council and adult forum studied last year called “A Church Reborn” Some people said, if you just get back to preaching Jesus, we wouldn’t have these problems! Others say, If we could just stand up to the sports teams and tell them Sunday morning is off limits! But the truth is we are in a new era, a new epoch in Christian history, and if you have heard me preach on Phyllis Tickle’s work on 500 year rummage sale or read her work yourself, You will know that we cannot turn the clock back.
We can resist, we can throw up our hands in despair--Or we can look to see what new things God is doing in the changes around us. Jesus invites his disciples to look at the ending about to occur as a birth: new life. God can and does do this. In fact, it is what we as Christians confess: we believe in the church, and we believe in resurrection.
The two go together The form of church may change, even pass away—
but the church as Jesus’ body here on earth does not change. The church as the assembly of believers, called to be witnesses of Good News—that does not change.
We are blessed to walk along side our partners in the New England Synod. Together we share the best tools for ministry in the present age We nurture our faith and hope
We plant new churches—one right here in our conference, a bilingual Spanish/English church in Manchester. Today is what we’re calling Synod Sunday.
Your bulletin highlights the synod’s work with the 180 Lutheran congregations of New England. Take it home and read it. Check out the website. Get on the weekly email blast. Subscribe to Bishop Hazelwood’s podcast. I’ve made more copies of his paper, “A Church Reborn” and also my sermon on Phyllis Tickle’s work on the 500 year rummage sale. Pick one up.
My point is this: we have the gift of being able to walk together with others.
We are not alone in this. We do not need to be alarmed. Something new is being born in our midst.
Will you have the eyes to see it?