Commotion in the Body of Christ
May 8, 2013
I can tell it is finally Spring! I have the window next to the desk open, and I hear the sounds of students from UMass outside along the street. As you can imagine, it results in a fair amount of commotion.
Spring and commotion seem to go together. New life on the farm and in the garden. Resurrection. Spring fever. The Holy Spirit. Can you imagine the commotion in the garden that witnessed the new life in the resurrection? Can you imagine the commotion in Jerusalem when the disciples starting speaking all kinds of languages and were accused of spring fever or worse? Yes, spring and commotion go together.
Given that, I have begun to wonder a bit about commotion. The root for com means "with" or "together" in Latin. The root for motion is also from the Latin (movere) meaning "to move." So commotion is movement together, a significant amount of movement or intensified activity. Yes, we tend to think in terms of noisy activity when we think of commotion, but noise isn’t really necessary. Coming together — acting together — is.
The culmination of Easter (the 50-day season between the resurrection and coming of the Spirit) is Pentecost when a major commotion like the sound of a violent windstorm came up. The disciples were stunned and changed and given gifts that they had no idea existed, let alone might be gifts that they had themselves. That is how it is when we are open to the presence of God.
Each year on Pentecost we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the church. As we worship and celebrate the com- motion in our lives that the Holy Spirit brings, we also celebrate the commotion among us all as the Spirit stirs us up in our faith.
What does a stirred up, commotion-filled life look like? It looks like a bunch of every day folks caring enough to feed some hungry people. It looks like people on mission trips, rebuilding homes. It looks like folks swinging hammers for Habitat. It looks like folks laughing and eating and painting and spreading mulch and trimming flowers. It looks like folks responding to natural disasters, feeding, housing, car- ing for those who have lost everything, including hope. In short, it looks like you. This all stirred up, commotion-filled life in the Spirit looks just like you and me.
When we come together as the Body of Christ—when we come together in the Spirit—we are part of the wonderful commotion that the Spirit stirs up in the world. And new life springs up.
And new life is springing up in Lowell at Eliot. Your Session has finalized the Mission Study that will be reviewed by the Committee on Ministry in May. That is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is at work in Lowell. It is a time of excitement, wonder and, yes, commotion as you look forward with anticipation.
Times of commotion, times of newness, times of wondering what comes next are also anxious times. But there is good news in the midst of the anxiety: God knows. The Holy Spirit is at work among you, blessing you as a community of faith and guiding you forward into God’s future.
Soon the Nominating Committee will begin working to place names in nomination for those to serve on the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC). Their job is an extraordinarily hard one. It will be their responsibility to identify a group of members that is representative of whole of Eliot, representative of the ethic diversity here, of gender, age, length of time as members, etc. While there will be a lot of commotion around the mission study and getting started in the search, please be patient. The Nominating Committee needs time.
So stay tuned. There is more commotion coming.
Resurrection: Living on the far side
April 1, 2013
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Easter is the time of year when we are confronted with the most astounding fact: One who was dead — absolutely, completely, totally and utterly dead — is alive! And not only that, the one who was dead is now alive and has been so for almost 2,000 years. Unbelievable!
And to our modern, scientific minds, something unbelievable, something mysterious, becomes almost automatically questionable. Today I am wondering if that conflict with our scientific worldview might not be behind some part of the hesitation most people feel about the self-giving, self-denying life at the heart of discipleship that resurrection faith calls us to live and share.
In an insightful column in the Sunday New York Times (“Beliefs: Two faiths, a Sacred Season,” March 23, 2002) writer Peter Steinfels compared children's books on Easter and Passover. He wrote, “Why on this table do children's Passover books explain the religious meaning of the feast — how it commemorates God's liberation of the Jewish people from slavery — while on that table children's Easter books dwell on flowers, stealthy bunnies and the search for colored eggs? Why on this table are the protagonists of children's Passover books usually human beings while on that table the protagonists of children's Easter books are usually animals?”
The books written for children about Easter show something about the difficulty that we, as adults, have in grasping the reality of the resurrection and claiming it for ourselves. It is quite true that resurrection is about life. But it is about the life that happens on the far side of death. And it’s about living in this life as if we are already on the far side, having moved from life as we know it to life as God would have it.
At your annual meeting in February, you took a significant step in that direction when you adopted the results of the New Beginnings process as the future direction that you hear God calling Eliot to take. Since then, several of you have been working on preparing the formal mission study that takes the wisdom that you all brought to the New Beginnings process and fleshes it out into a document that will help guide your Session in their work leading Eliot. And, perhaps most interestingly, the mission study will form the basis for your search for you next pastor. Many of you have heard me say this, but it bears repeating. The more closely you work with the mission study, the more likely you will identify a pastor who matches well with you and who brings the gifts and skills that you identify as most needed to go where you are being called.
I suspect you can see why I am tying the search process to the resurrection. You are letting go of some of what was and seeking to see what will be. You are moving from life as you’ve known it to the far side to live your common life together life as God would have it. And that will be a resurrection event.
So, resurrection is not about bunnies and chickies and green things that push up through the icy mud in early spring, as pop culture might have us believe. Resurrection is about life in spite of the reality of death, even death on a cross. It is about faith liberated by the confidence of God's enduring presence — even in the worst that we human beings can do to each other. And, in the final analysis, resurrection is about hope, hope that what is too good to be true and too good not to be true will become more and more apparent in our lives and in the life of the world. That is living on the far side.
I pray that Christ will be with us and lead us to find ways to share this vision of resurrection faith with Lowell and the world. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!