Monday, November 14, 2011

Invest in Faith or Bury in Fear?

I've been mulling over the Gospel passage from last Sunday for at least a week now. Even though that sermon is over, for some reason God still won't let me let go of that passage. There is a saying that preaching every week is like having a baby on Sunday and waking up pregnant on Monday. I won't claim any expertise in the area of pregnancy, but it seems like there is something in that passage that God doesn't want me (or us) to let go of quite yet. And, since our Priest Associate for Evangelism is preaching and celebrating this Sunday, I have a chance to take another shot at it!

Part of that "not wanting to let go" is a sense that the passage has a lot of application to us at this point in our lives at St. Edward's. I think that there is a huge temptation to follow the world's example and tighten our belts financially, hold out collective breath, protect what we have, and hope that things get better. Essentially, to bury our talent in the ground so that we'll at least have that in the end. I also think that is a fearful, not a faithful, response and a sure recipe for institutional death.

I managed to touch a bit on it in my sermon, but newly-consecrated Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde's first sermon as Bishop of Washington (DC area) said it much better than I could. Go ahead and read the sermon. Or listen to it. Here is how she ends it:
This is our life. This is our Church. We are a unique expression of God’s creative genius.  Never doubt the importance of what you are doing, and what we are doing on earth.
This is likely what St. Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Thessalonians: "Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing."

Planting or re-planting a church is risky business. Like planting a tree, it takes a lot of preparation and planning, much watering, and then a tremendous amount of patience and some pruning as the tree matures. In many ways, St. Edward's has been uprooted from where and what it was, pruned (perhaps severely) and moved to a new context, a new reality. Where we were perhaps once a tall, strong oak, that tree has split and we are now once again a small seedling. We have huge amounts of potential, but a lot of work and worry ahead of us.

I believe that, through this Gospel passage, God is calling us as a community to choose to move forward and risk what we have in faith rather than to shrink back and bury what we have in order not to lose it, or lose it any faster than necessary. This will not be an easy task. We are naturally a risk-averse people, and many of our congregation have a significant financial, emotional, and spiritual investment in St. Edward's. But we cannot go back. We cannot recapture any sort of glory days of half a century ago. And there is no point in wishing for more money, more people, more of anything we don't currently have. As Bishop Budde said at Washington National Cathedral, I say to you: "This is our life. This is our Church. We are a unique expression of God's creative genius. Never doubt the importance of what you are doing, and what we are doing on earth."

Never doubt the importance of what God will do through us, either....