Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Good Life…

Last month I had a “milestone” birthday: on October 9, I turned thirty. If you weren’t in service that morning, you should know they called a surprise “congregational meeting.” The one item on the agenda was presenting me with gifts- Depends, Geritol, reading glasses and a Gift Card. For the generous gift card, I want to say Thank You! For the other stuff, I’ll get to gratitude in a few decades.

Anyway, the expectation with birthdays that end in -0, so it seems, is that you ‘reflect’ on “what it all means.” Honestly, I think that’s overdramatic. Turning 30, 50, or 90 means whatever you choose to make of it. Nevertheless, in recent weeks it’s sunk in that I’m approaching the day I must officially drop ‘young’ before self-describing as an ‘adult.’ I’ve still got a few years, but it’s coming, I realize now. Thus, some might say, “Panic!” But it’s alright by me.

I mean, I’ve never fully understood why some folk fear aging as much as they claim. Sure, our culture nurtures some deeply hostile attitudes toward old age. Youth is idolized while many older adults are encouraged to live segregated from much society. Perhaps many young folk, then, never spend time with their elders; never learning their wisdom, understanding their struggles, realizing that we’ve all got a lot in common. Who knows?

One distinction worth thinking about, though, between people at different stations in life is the amount of time spent looking forward or looking back. I’ve never seen any studies on this, so I’m just guessing here. But I imagine that the older one gets, the more one’s mix between reminiscing and ‘dreaming about the future’ changes. If for no other reason then you have more memories to ponder the older you get! I know some who’d say all that’s dangerous, that we must always strive to live “in the present”, not muse over days gone by or fantasize about what might come. Which is an alright idea, in some regards, but I’m not convinced it’s always the best goal.

Consider this: We Christians are approaching Advent; it begins November 27, in fact. So from then until Christmas, we’ll spend time remembering the past, one particular set of events even. And we do this annually; talk of angels and shepherds, Magi and the baby Jesus, trusting that somehow we’ll discover something new, enriching and meaningful in the same ole stories. Is that the same as ‘living in the past’? Maybe. I know some churches for whom every Sunday, but especially those around the holidays, are excuses to dwell in days gone by; better times, they tell themselves, simpler and serene.

To those churches and their members I would absolutely say: Stop remembering, and start living- Now, in the present! But I don’t think that describes Plymouth Creek. I hope that whenever we look back- to the birth of Jesus, the founding of our denomination, the good and difficult times this congregation has faced- we do so expecting to rediscover God’s presence, and thus get a better sense of what to look for in days ahead. That’s how faith works, when it’s working well. The people of God remembering what good things God’s done, so we’re better prepared for the exciting mission to come.

It’s with that double sense of time- of what was and what will be- that I hope we enter this Advent/Christmas season together. In fact, taken from the lyrics of a gleefully infectious pop song by the band OneRepublic, I’ve decided to give the 2011 season the following theme: “This Could Really Be a Good Life”. It applies, obviously, to the birth of Jesus, and our remembering what great things that baby would do for the world one day. But I hope that as we celebrate all the wonder and joy of his good, good life, we’ll re-claim those things for ourselves, our families and our church. For truly, in the life of faith, what was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. And as the birth of the baby Jesus reminds us, what that is is good. Very good. For all the world.

Grace and Peace,


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