It was really something, as we were processing from our historic buildings during our April 28th worship service, to our new, if temporary, home, to receive a round of applause from a congregation of fellow Christians at St. Irenaeus as we walked down Orchard lifting high the cross.
I don’t know if those who were driving over caught the whole effect of this ovation; I didn’t expect it. None of us did. I couldn’t have told you to anticipate it. The amazing thing is that neither did St. Irenaeus. I learned the story a little later on. I want to share it with you, because I think that it is part of the whole tapestry that God is weaving with Trinity and Park Forest in these days. You see, we’re not the only quilters in the universe. God is quite a quilter as well, I’d say.
It just happened, or maybe not “just happened,” that St. Irenaeus was in the midst of passing the peace before they entered into their celebration of the Eucharist, the giving of thanks for what Jesus did for us, entering into the mystery of the depth of God’s love.
Maybe it was Nick, a passionate supporter of prayer and Park Forest and his parish, who clued the congregation in to our coming by at that moment. He told me later that the moment could never have been scripted. But I think God might have had a little hand in the matter.
I think we will look back on this moment in years to come. Because I think that we will have years to come. And I think we will have years to come because God is not done with our ministry. And God is not done with Park Forest.
What? Is it possible for God to have a plan for our ministry that does not entail us closing because we have been shrinking in numbers for years? Is it indeed possible for God to have a plan for Park Forest that includes even our ministry, the ideas and dreams and hopes that are only on the horizon now, but may come into being as each of us did, as our congregation did, as this village did, as this new day did?
God, I’d say, is quite the quilter. My life has been a patchwork of experiences and relationships, locations and accomplishments, mistakes and regrets, fragilities and resiliences. I couldn’t have told you in college that I’d become a pastor, or a secretary, or a tend a store, or sell insurance like my Dad did.
I didn’t have a 5-year plan or 10-year goals. I didn’t know if I’d marry or live in the United States or even see 30. I’ve gotten to here and now over paths that had been untrodden, through perils I couldn’t have known, led by a God whom I didn’t always believe in. But God still had plans for me, many of which I have yet to learn about. In that way, I’m a lot like this congregation.
It recently became apparent to me that Trinity is not an elderly congregation. Sure, our average age is about 83, but we’re a young 83. I was an old kid. My Dad called me the 35 year old kid when I was 5. Now I’m 44 going on who knows what. And Trinity is 70 going on 16.
Yes. It became apparent to me that Trinity as a congregation is more like a teenager than an elder. I don’t mean any disrespect by saying this. Maybe the age of adolescence is rising. But I daresay we are just beginning to learn what it means to be a church, or, perhaps, what it means to venture out into a wider world, a world that now has literally extended past what we knew for years.
We will feel awkwardness. Growing pains. Unexpected hilarity. Occasionally deep wells of sadness. Feelings that we forgot we knew how to feel. Echoes of joy from a summer that seems like it could not possibly have been as long ago as it was, because in memory it was only last summer, and maybe will be the summer coming up.
Jesus was young. He was so young and alive. He called people out of their homes and their sacred places, out of their jobs and their usual lives. He was impossibly old as well, as old as time itself and older. Indeed, Jesus rewrote time itself, because time has always had its end in death, and Jesus destroyed the power of death. Jesus also has the power to reset the clock of our ministry, to join the circle of the communion of the saints above, here below, and yet to come.
It may not be entirely by chance that we were celebrated with a round of applause. Holy Family welcomed us with applause as well! Bless them in their openness to our congregation and to God's future. Because I believe that our saints above are applauding our new beginning as well. This is not by chance, but by design. God’s design. And it will be our adventure to grow further into that mystery of God’s love for us, for Park Forest, and for this world that needs as much of that deepest love of all.
And, as much as any pastor could rightly say this, I am proud of you all. And I am applauding you along with all as you open yourselves up to God’s deepest calling to you in community.
May God bless you every day!!