Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…
Forgive me if I have shared something of this story with you.
The scene is vividly imprinted in my memory. We were standing in the parking lot of Faith Lutheran Church, Powell River, B.C. It was a beautiful coastal summer afternoon. I had accepted the call to Faith Lutheran the year before, and now my parents had made their way up the coast by way of two ferries for our annual visit. It was a handsome little church, built as most churches were in those days, by the volunteer labor of its proud members. I was their first pastor who had followed on the heels of their beloved, very senior development pastor. Let me be clear, I was not their first choice. I was the 3rd name on the second list of pastors. Maybe it was the ferries?
I have absolutely no idea what question my mother had asked me. Regardless, I launched into a treatise on whatever subject, and after 25 minutes, having failed to notice that Mom, who had glazed over and quit listening about 17 minutes prior, responded with, “Why is it when I ask you for the time you build me a watch?” Assuming the balance of her life could have hung in my answer, she walked off not waiting. Smart mother. I get wordy, my proclivity has always been to give a James Michener answer to a Dr. Seuss question. What is that about?
St. Paul always struck me that way. After all he was a lawyer, so wordy should not be a surprise. Romans 7 is for me a classic example, “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual… I do not know what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate to do I do… for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing.” An alternative could have been, “Dang! I think we all need a recovery program for compulsive sinners!”
I think, by in large, we are not surprised by lengthy answers. After all, life is complicated. Pandemics, elections, septic systems, relationships, Jesus, et al. You get the idea. For example, in terms of the life of faith, I remember some teacher, somewhere, telling me there are two different stories of history. There is secular history, and then there is sacred history. There is the world with its ever-growing fast pace realities of economics, militarization, public health, world religions, politics, and then there is Jesus. Jesus, the story of our personal religious walk. But in truth there is only one history, sacred history. What is this tendency we have to separate the two and make it more complicated? As if we vote, we invest, defend capitalism, acknowledge something of racism, make family decisions, live with health issues, and somehow alongside we have church services, (well, in due season) and Jesus.
There is only one story, only one. There is sacred history and that is it. We live in God’s time. Anything to the contrary is a deception. The faithful life is living and making decisions in the context always of our being intimately woven into God’s story in Jesus. As much as it might be convenient to believe otherwise, that would be untrue. When we vote, when we invest, when we make decisions regarding the environment, how we choose to relate to our neighbor both close and far, we do it all in the context of our being a part of God’s sacred history where we love to tell the story of how God, who is spirit, put on flesh and showed his love for us all on a cross. Our lives are lived in the context of one sacred story. Only one, that’s it! Am I getting wordy again?
Faith Lutheran Church, that beautiful little church up the coast, does not exist anymore. At least, not as it did. They sold their site, no longer comprising the numbers able to support its ministry. So many memories. The older generation that had put hands to tools has mostly died off. Now a visiting pastor comes periodically to their meeting site and brings Word and Sacrament. Yet Faith Lutheran, Powell River, continues as a part of sacred history. The remnant gathers, they sing, they pray, they make plans to serve, and they give praise to God who has already made plans for their tomorrow. And I am grateful, regardless of circumstances, that we continue together as a part of God’s sacred unfolding history.