Remember every 500 years there has been a monumental shift in the face of the Church.
In the first 500 years we saw the establishment of the Creeds, Councils, Canons. During the next 500 years we witnessed in 1054 the split between the church of the East and the church of the West. Then in 1517 we heard the cry for a Reformation that ended in a Protest. Now we are at the end of days of the last 500 year period 1517-2000…we have been crossing over and in fact are now more than ever facing ideals, philosophies, theologies, moralities that are being forged, formed and foaming.
We are to close and at times so personally caught up into all that is happening in the church and in the world as the tectonic plates under us and around us are shifting. We need to realize that these are critical times and we are in desperate need for a global council of truth that is well beyond a denomination, or the latest advertised conference or the voice of any one man. To stand alone in these days may sweep many off the shore of spiritual safety and into a rouge wave for which there may not be any hope of survival.
The sea is churning an undercurrent of sands that are making the waters murky. Yet washing up on the shore are some new sands and washing out some old sands. A new day is dawning. No one knows exactly what is happening at this crossroads of our life and times. There are no words to properly provide a caption; there are no images that provide enough pixels to see clearly at this time. We are as uncertain at this time as was Martin Luther and the Roman Catholics 500 years ago. But rest assured that Jesus is Lord, in the center of the universe there is established a Throne and the One who sits on it is Faithful and True, Holy and Incarnate, Just and Merciful.
History tells us to not sit on either the right or the left, the north or the south. The winds are still swirling about and it will take decades to work through and work out all of the particulars and by the time we do another 500 years will be starring us in the face.
Yet, do not become paralyzed or placid. Let us hasten the day…we have a resurrection to attend! I am not talking about the resurrection of the dead (end of the world stuff), but the resurrection and life…of Christ and his kingdom still coming to the world all around us. This is our day, this is our time, this is what we have been waiting, living, breathing and preparing for…thank God we have been born out of due time.
As Thomas Oden wrote in “After Modernity What?” (1990) “The image of a moving pendulum may help grasp the way in which the Christian community is constantly seeking an equilibrium of tradition and renewal. Since it swings through lengthy historical epochs, where a single stroke might take half a century, its motion is imperceptible. A pendulum is only useful when it is in motion, working with tension filled polarities. The best trained for modernity are least prepared for the consequences of modernity. The reversal of the pendulum’s direction today is best understood both as a gift to be received and a task to be accomplished.”
Q: Does the future have a church? If so, what does it look like?
There are times of change and there are times of transition. Transition is much harder and is the result of a multitude of changes that must be brought forth. It will be messy. My example is from the time when a woman with child goes into transition, it is the time of delivery that brings about the most excruciating pain, the greatest sense of being out of control and the most sensitive time mentally and emotionally. The birthing canal is being expanded to bring forth the expected life…it is a time of stretching, tearing, bleeding, yelling, crying…it is an upheaval at every level beyond what is tolerable or bearable of all physical, psychological, emotional, and volitional capacities. But it is all necessary to bring about the unsurpassed joy of new life.
We are passing into the beginning of the transition…just like my wife has me as a coach, so you also will need a coach…an encourager to help you keep “pushing” past the pain…otherwise it is possible as the prophet said to have all the pain but give birth to nothing. Isaiah 26:17-18
Transition is such an emotional time. Everything is so volatile and the emotions are moving to two opposite directions (ecstasy of bearing life and excruciating pain to give life). That is how it feels…death works in me so that life can work in others (2 Cor 4).
When I shared this with my wife, Diana, she said, that the place that helps turn the pain of transition towards the joy of delivery is when the doctor tells you that the “head is crowning.”
Giving birth does not a have a due date, but we are in labor until Christ is formed in us…may you and I and the Church of the 21st century hear the words…the HEAD is Crowning!
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light:
Look favorably on your whole Church,
that wonderful and sacred mystery;
by the effectual working of your providence,
carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation;
let the whole world see and know
that things which were cast down are being raised up,
and things which had grown old are being made new,
and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.