Back down at the beach after a week away. The last week that I was here nearly did me in so I needed the break, but I did live to fight another day. School marches on with this one last semester in my sights. The end is near, crawl if you have to. At the end of another year I’m still having a hard time looking backwards on it. It’s a fatal flaw that I seem to have, not looking back I mean. It’s the main reason that none of you received a Christmas letter from us. It was my job to initiate the first draft. There is a rumor that it might become a New Years letter, but don’t look for it before the 1st as I’m still straining to see what’s back while avoiding the auld langsyne. I still don’t know what that even means.
It’s not that this was a bad year by any means. In many ways it was, as my wife would put it, a fabulous year. We watched a daughter walk down the aisle. We watched a granddaughter taking her first steps. We watched a village in a jungle see the first clean water flow from their ground. I plowed through 3 semesters of school with grades way beyond reason. We remodeled our kitchen, our deck, and I repainted the house. We made it through the year without my wife being taken down with back issues. I have a new studio with our artist community and I actually did some work in there. My year as a pastoral artist has been one of the most enjoyable in many years. There is so much to look back on and be thankful for and I am….thankful I mean … not the looking back part.
This year, within my community o’ faith, we will be celebrating the reality of 100 years of existence. You know what that means don’t you? It means even more looking back. That is one event that I am really not looking forward to, if you know what I mean. I don’t like birthday’s in general, except for my wife’s. Don’t get me wrong, 100 years in existence as a community o’ faith is an amazing thing, especially when, at 100, you are healthy and full of life. I’m just not into looking back…. much, especially when it comes to being a vibrant community o’ faith. Let’s face it, one of the least likely places that you’d expect to experience the 21st century is within the walls of the average church building. Too many of them exist like medieval fortresses that draw up the bridges as the people enter. They ought to, in my humble opinion, exist like an amphibious transport deploying Navy Seals on the beach, ready to attack poverty, suffering, and general boredom each and every time their doors open up.
Let’s be honest for a moment. Which do you think is more life giving to people who need to experience real life? Would you be more excited to go backwards in time behind the walls of a religious museum, or would you be more eager to have a point to your life and to live that point out within the natural surroundings that you find yourself in? Would you rather retreat and hide or would you rather advance and experience? If retreat is your preference, I can’t help you. I will say that, in my experience, the more time you spend on past history, the closer you drift to museum status. As far as the church goes, we’ve spent the past several months experiencing the book known as Acts in the Book of Books. If you don’t already know, it is about the birth of the Church as it was launched through a commission from Jesus himself. I’ll give you a hint. It’s called Acts because it is an active book about an active church called to “Go”. It’s not called “Beliefs”. It’s not called “Theories”. It’s not called “Propositions” or “Dreams” or “Plans”. These are all passive expressions of the faith that is open to all of us. It is called Acts because Jesus called his people, through the vehicle of the church, to act. He didn’t call them to “go to church”. He called them to “be the church”. In my opinion, this all just screams “forward”.
So there it is and here I am, at the end of another year. We’ve all scaled another year called life and as we approach the summit, we all have a choice. We can look backwards on where we’ve been. There is value in that. The view might be breathtaking. But my encouragement to you is, after taking a brief glance over your shoulder, to seek the mystery that is just beyond the summit. It’s something that we’ve not seen before. It’s packed with possibility. As we learned through the wisdom of Pixar and “UP”, the future is out there.