Sunday, February 27, 2011

To The Moon

The other night I was sitting on the edge of my bed folding my laundry (random laundry note:  I enjoy laundry much more when I get to hang it on the clothesline) and listening to music - a wonderful mix of JJ Heller, Tenth Avenue North, and Sara Groves (and a few other of my favorite songs).  I was half listening to the music, half musing to myself about the sermon I'm going to be writing soon (I'm preaching in lab on Tuesday and then in church on March 13), half thinking about the fact that I should maybe get some bleach for my hankies (bloody noses to wonderful things to white hankies), and half thinking about how wonderful my bed was going to feel with fresh sheets on it (there is always something special about the first night on clean sheets), when a Sara song caught my ear. I had recently gotten some new Sara music from a friend, so I'm not completely familiar with all of it yet.  By the time my brain realized it was supposed to be paying attention to this song because it was new (my brain was tired, attention shifting was slower than usual) the song was at then end of the second verse and the first words I consciously remember were "Here at our church on the moon".  This caused me to pause and listen...Church on the moon?  As far as I know, we do not have any churches on the moon yet.  What was going on?  I "rewound" the song to the beginning and listened again.  It was indeed, from what I could hear, about a church on the moon.  I was having some trouble making out the some of the words so I abandoned my laundry folding and went to my computer and googled the lyrics.  This is what I found:

"It was there in the bulletin 
We're leaving soon
After the bake sale to raise funds for fuel
The rocket is ready and we're going to
Take our church to the moon

There'll be no one there to tell us we're odd
No one to change our opinions of God
Just lots of rocks and this dusty sod
Here at our church on the moon

We know our liberties we know our rights
We know how to fight a very good fight
Just get that last bag there and turn out the light
We're taking our church to the moon
We're taking our church to the moon
We'll be leaving soon"

(Sara Groves, "To the Moon", link to the audio, not captioned)

After listening to it a few more times and reading the lyrics I started to reflect on what it was saying about the church and it almost made me angry. The anger came because I realized how accurately the lyrics reflected the state of many churches today. Being the church can be hard.  Sometimes we are in hard situations, sometimes people call us odd.   Things get tough.  Maybe the neighborhood that our church is in under-goes some major changes, maybe people stop coming, maybe the congregation ages...the list of possibilities are endless.  
When faced with these tough times, the church, just like anyone faced with a hard time, has two choices.  They can stick it out or they can take off.   I see the church too often taking the latter option.  Maybe part of the congregation is having a disagreement.  Often, this will lead to a split, and a new church, born out of the fracture. Sometimes even a new denomination is born and the hostility continues for generations. Sometimes a church will just pick up and move to a new location to escape a changing neighborhood. 

Sara's lyrics are a little extreme, but they speak truth, and that saddens me.  As far as I know, a church has yet to go to the moon, but a church that moves out of a changing neighborhood is just as inaccessible to the hurting people who need it as a church on the moon would be.
Instead of moving out, instead of ensuring that our churches stay sterile and the way we like them, instead of fighting to keep our beliefs from being challenged, instead of hiding away so no one will call us strange, what would happen if we stayed put?  And not just stayed put, but started reaching out to those in our communities, putting ourselves in a position to be challenged and be called odd?  Maybe then, we would see growth in the church.  
It's time to come back from the moon.

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