Sunday, July 1, 2012

New seasons…

The Ancients weren’t entirely wrong about scheduling the “new year” to coincide with winter. January 1st occurs just after the Winter Solstice, of course, so I suspect that turn of the calendar reflected the rhythms of earth’s renewal. After the slow slog toward days of diminished sunshine, on December 21 the sun decides to stick around longer. During the 3rd century CE, Romans designated a few days later- December 25- the feast of Sol Invictus, after a god whose name means “The Unconquered Sun.” When Christians grabbed power, they said, “Let’s dub that Christmas!” And eventually, they chose soon after to declare, “A New Year has begun!”

Which made ecological sense I guess, considering that’s when winter changes. But we Minnesotans realize there’s little difference between the length of days in January and December. Sure, we know it’s getting brighter, that darkness is receding. Still, it feels depressing when night endures so long, whatever the calendar claims, removing some potential joy from New Year’s celebrations.

What if, instead, they’d let Christmas/Sol Invictus/Winter Solstice keep winter to themselves, and decided to start new years mid-summer instead? Work productivity would already be down, given beach vacation schedules. More celebratory possibilities would arise, involving smokers and grills. Oh, that the Ancients were more strategic! Next time I speak with one, I’ll share our frustration.

We Plymouth Creekers, though, got it right, right? We began our church’s “new year” June 1, as always. Sure, the advent of a new budget cycle didn’t include Auld Lang Syne or midnight smooching (as least, not that I know of). Nevertheless, a new season has begun, friends! A new year, even!

So what shall this year bring, do you imagine? What kind of ministry, opportunity, mission, praise and purpose do you expect the Lord to bring our way before June 2013 rolls around?

Honestly, I can’t say! God’s yet to post The Plan on Facebook. But I’m wondering if my yard can give us something to work with. Before we went on vacation last month, we needed to mow the lawn. Particularly certain sections we’d planted with seeds in April, watered obsessively in May and consciously avoided mowing during those months. Wanted to give the seeds enough time in the sun, you know? Thus, when we returned, Wow, growth had happened! And not just the nice, long, verdant blades of green grass kind, but also places of invidious infiltration by dandelions and friends. A simple mow job was now inappropriate. It was necessary, but so too was more targeted work. So, as my calloused and raw hands will attest, Tabitha and I dug in. We snipped and pulled, pushed and pulled, and hours later, our lawn looked much more presentable. There’s still work to do, of course, Always!, but progress is made, growth achieved. We can play lawn games now without jungle machetes.

I wonder if, perhaps, Plymouth Creek might experience something of that kind. Over the past year and a half, we’ve been working the vision of becoming a beacon of openness and service for the NW suburbs. Community garden, bus ministry, increased attendance and commitment to outreach. In other words, we’ve encouraged much more light to come in! And as my lawn can attest, light can equal growth. Mostly of the good kind, sometimes of the concerning kind. But something just happens, doesn’t it, when you say to God, “Shine your rays, brighten our days!”

I think, then, the challenge of this new year might be- a) Keeping our lives and spirits open God’s light. It’s not enough, in other words, to say, “We’re ready, Lord!” Rather, we’ve got to keep searching for new insights, worship styles, opportunities, places of shade. Then, b) Paying attention to new flowers and festering weeds. Always ready to respond when something new pops up that’s either lovely or concerning. Gloves at the ready for some spiritual landscaping.

Fortunately, I believe our vision is both God-sized and God-inspired, and further, that the Lord’s called the right people to this place. Thus, whatever the new year holds, I expect it’ll brightened by grace. Preparing us, therefore, to go out and shine!

Grace and Peace,

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