14 March 2013

Lent is Ending. What Will You Lose?

Loss, any loss, carries with it grief. When someone dies, a hymnbook is replaced, a new version of the Book of Common Prayer is adopted, even though those events have different levels of grief, they always bring some. Bach gives way to folk rock, and for some there is loss, and inevitably, grief. Generational change especially in the church, is the stuff of controversy. Change too brings loss and grief.

In Chicago, we are called to "Grow the Church, Form the Faithful, and Change the World." And that is indeed the Gospel imperative. But as we grow the church, we inevitably welcome not only new people but new ideas, music, and beliefs. Herein lies the dilemma.

We either take, "Form the Faithful" to mean molding those newcomers into copies or ourselves, the road to extinction, or we undertake helping them understand the implications of what Jesus calls us to do in the world, and equipping them to do those things. In the later case, we face the loss of "the way we always do it" and the attendant grief. If we choose the alternative, we face almost certain loss of the newcomers.

Loss, giving up the music, the minister, the liturgy, the belief and the role that we have cherished, accepting and working through our grief, and joyfully proclaiming that the new is good and can call us to better things; these form the final challenge of what we call, "New Life In Christ." This is our walk up Calvary.

Losses can be really private. We can all carry some that we do not want to share with anyone, not even our clergy or fellow parishioners. And there are those parishioners who do not want others to share. The pain that accompanies loss and grief can make some very uncomfortable. It is even worse when we cannot take our losses to God. An old hymn advises, "Take it to the Lord in prayer." It was among my dad's favorites. But for some of us, even that, sharing our pain with God, can be difficult. Which is sad because God is there for us and Jesus really does understand.

Some things are not lost: we give up, we discard them because we should never have owned them. The idea that the church should be what we want even if others are excluded or harmed too is something to discard. The sin of white, straight, male privilege really should not be lost but discarded. Sexism, homophobia, misogyny, ideology, these should go. God's refining fire beckons: we can throw our sins into the fire or face it with them. Why is the choice so hard for so many?

Other losses, love, friendship, comfortable patterns in life, worship, art, and family, these losses can really hurt. And yet we can take none of them with us on our final journey. At the end of our day, we have only God. God who loves us, calls us, and preserves us to eternity. Everything else, everything(!) we must eventually lose, grieve and release.

Grief is not wrong. Refusing to work through it, and move on to the light that is error. As J.R.R. Tolkien observed, "I do not say do not weep. Not all tears are evil." Ah but some are. Grief without end does only harm. Accepting loss, crying, and learning to live on, that way lies the light. Along the way we all have some things to discard.

In the last few days of Lent, it is a good time to ask ourselves what we should discard? What grief and loss do you need to face along the way to the light?


Terri Brice said...

Nicely written piece. Thank you.

JimB said...



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