Fear of the Unknown
This coming Sunday we are going to re-dedicate the windows in the sanctuary. This is going to be a special service as we welcome back families and members that have been away. For some who have been away they will join in as if they never left. For most of the people that have left, coming back is going to be a surreal experience with facilities looking familiar clearly a lot of changes too, which for those who have been around are harder to see. Kind of like a child growing-up, the church is growing and by definition it is changing. That, is a good thing because as we change and grow we practice the resurrection.
One of the reasons why people fear change so much is similar to the reason why they fear death, because in a very real way change is death. It is the end of one way and the beginning of a new way. Another way to think about it is that change is a journey into a new reality where the outcomes while seemingly predictable, are really unknown. Among clergy, this is one of the things that fascinates us a lot in how a people that embrace a resurrection theology can fear change so intensely. Moreover, it is interesting because like death, change is inevitable and change is feared.
Yet, we are also called to overcome fears and live in to a resurrection life. This means that we not only accept a resurrection life, but we embrace that God has been active in past, our current and our future realities. This presence of God should bring a calm, to the ways in which we engage life because no matter where we find ourselves, we know that we are with God.
Yes, this is counter to our human instincts. For good reason, we fear what we do not know. That is how we have survived, but as resurrection people, death is no longer a great unknown. We know that there is a beyond, though what that actually looks like is hard to really understand. But today, we have a fairly good understanding of how the world works and often the fears we have, no longer really seem rational. This means that if we are faithful, the end is something that is not to be feared, rather, it is something that we should embrace and celebrate.
When I first came to this congregation we were in a funk. The prior ten years, though some may argue longer, were a rollercoaster of emotions. While the church hit some real highs, it also became a victim of the natural life cycle of a congregation, getting to the point where it was fixated on what it was rather then what it could be. In many ways we feared that if we changed anymore, the only thing that would surely come was more pain. But in a very real way, our past blinded us to the future and made us question the undergirding of our faith.
The Window project was the beginning of a new time in church when we made the deliberate choice to embrace the changes that were right in front of us. It was about the same time when we started on the windows that we started on the revitalization of the church. In both cases we worked on what was seen first, but the windows and the church both held their secrets. But that is to be expected and as we began to embrace the unknowns we also began to grow. In the case of the windows, funds that by all accounts should not have been there arrived. In the case of the church, we learned to reach out to the community and embrace them in new and powerful ways, helping them to see what Christian hospitality is and what a non-judgmental faith is all about.
Fundamentally, we took on the power dynamics that the church had developed and chose to trust in the Lord. This happened about four years ago during a session meeting where they collectively said “enough!” it was time to put the past where it belonged and let go of what was and embrace what will be. The power dynamics changed as we learned to trust each other and realize that while we did not always agree, it did not mean that we had to fight to win, rather we needed to listen and trust that God would show us the way. In a very real way, we learned more deeply than ever to trust in the Lord, for what happens here is not our doing alone and only by letting the spirit in, will we be able to do the ministry God calls us to do.
I hope that you can make it this Sunday to celebrate the windows and this new chapter of our congregations life trusting that God will guide us through all things, even the changes that are still before us!
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen