I have no crystal ball

posted Oct 2, 2018, 12:27 PM by Cameron Hubanks   [ updated Oct 2, 2018, 12:28 PM ]

I have no crystal ball which tells me the future. Even the Bible, which is often thought to be a blueprint of the future, doesn’t serve very well as a harbinger of what’s coming next. Will the Bible tell who will win the November elections? Can the Bible be used to predict the circumstances of the next mass shooting? Is there a way to read the Old Testament prophets, or the Revelation of John so as to be able to predict how long the current stock market rally will last? The answers are, no, no, and no.

The Bible does, however, predict another future certainty about which almost none of us care to think – you and I are on the road to death. It is the nature of all created things to be born and to gradually grow to maturity and then later on to decline and to die. This reality may be unpleasant to contemplate, but it is true and certain. Humans are challenged to think clearly about death. We are not to romanticize it (we are taught it isan “enemy”) but neither are we to fear it. It isn’t that we can somehow stare death down by steely determination and thereby escape its clutches. The teachings of the Bible (to say nothing of millennia of human experience) are clear – we will all die.

And not only do individual humans die, but the institutions we build also die. Companies and countries and yes – churches, are born and flourish for a time and then decline. Not all utterly pass away, but they fade and turn into something resembling a shadow of their former existence. The examples are manifold – ancient empires such as the Babylonian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the British Empire are all shadows of what they once were. Famous and enormous companies – Studebaker and Amoco and The Pennsylvania Railroad are no more. The letters of the New Testament were mostly written to churches churches which long ago faded from the scene.

So what? As I’ve been getting to know you, I’ve heard a few confess some anxiety for the future of ZwingliUCC. At the risk of seeming glib and perhaps being misunderstood, I need to remind you that Zwingli Church will close someday.

BUT – that day is not yet – it probably isn’t even soon. There are many ways to think of death – some helpful and many not so helpful. One of the helpful ways to think of death is to use the reality of future extinction as a motivation to be purposefully lively TODAY! Zwingli Church has a role to play in the economy of God. Wedon’t play the same sort of role as do larger churches. It is the (inevitable) reality of smaller churches that they are less programmatic than are larger churches. But small churches can be just as lively – sometimes more so– than larger churches. Where a large church will execute a formal program to feed the homeless, or care for latch-key kids between the time school gets out and Mom and/or Dad get home, or lobby legislators for the implementation of law that truly advances the common good, a small church will rarely do any of these admirable things – at least not by any official program. That isn’t how small churches work. Whereas the large church does these things with its own stand-alone program, the small church empowers its members to do these things on their own, or in tandem with others or by engaging with groups – secular or sacred – which are created to advance the common good.

It may seem that the small church does little except worship – but appearances may be deceiving. In fact, it may be that in worship the members are fed and motivated to carry Christ into their work and into their communities and into social action – and when they do that – THAT IS ZWINGLI UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST DOING THE WORK TO WHICH GOD CALLS IT.

So.... rest assured... you and I and Zwingli Church will someday die. But we’re not yet to the day of death anduntil we get there we have the joy and privilege of doing the work of Jesus. And whether we do it alone, or withtwo or three others, or with another organization that doesn’t even look like a church – in fact, it is part of the God-given mission of Zwingli Church.

So, my friends, be the church. You don’t need my permission or that of the Church Council to do the work of Zwingli Church. Have at it!!

And let us know how it’s going, too! With Great Hope!

Rich Pleva, Pastor