Thursday, October 22, 2015

Closing time…

I saw the band Semisonic in concert when I was 19. We wanted desperately for them to play their major hit, “Closing Time.” They waited to do so until the last song of their second and final encore. In retrospect, we should’ve expected that to happen. When a song’s lyrics include, “time for you to go out,” it’d be weird to finish that song and begin another, right?!

Anyway, another lyric reveals something I think our church should celebrate about the past few months. The singer croons, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” It’s a clever turn of phrase, but borders on trite sentimentality. I’m referencing it now, however, to speak of death and decay. And that’s always deep, amen?

Please don’t answer that question.

Instead, picture with me a pile of weeds and vines and tomato plants. We have several currently steeping on parts of our property. That is not, of course, the result of disregard for how we present ourselves to our community. Rather, earlier this year- thanks to Kimberly’s diligent efforts to enhance our Creation Care ministry- we received a composting grant from the county. Thousands of dollars were awarded us to create a system for composting organic waste from our building and grounds. Well done, church. Way cool! Thus, as we anticipate closing time for the garden this year (after church on the 25th; please help out!), we know that last spring’s new beginning won’t end for good. It’ll contribute to next year’s beginning.

Which is the point of composting. Organic material doesn’t keep its shape and composition forever. Just look at the withering leaves our foster kid taped to our walls as decorations (don’t ask…). Fortunately, this ending isn’t the story’s end. Nutrition emerges from decomposition. Seeds become trees that produce leaves that fall and become dirt within which new seeds become trees... Cue someone singing “Closing Time.” Or “Circle of Life.”

None of this is news. Nor is it news that, whatever the natural process, humans don’t especially like endings. Unless it’s a dentist appointment. The problem being, I suspect, that we’re aware of the endings of former new beginnings in a way that trees aren’t. We’re feel our bodies declining, see problems emerging (so we think) within communities, churches, nations, families, all portending an ending we weren’t wanting. So we don’t celebrate new new beginnings with gusto as readily as we might sometimes. Particularly when the ending in question is, say, a project we invested in or relationship that sustained us. It’s hard to see a new beginning that could replace what’s ended.

Thankfully, Christians can remember that the soil in which we reside- ultimately- is the soil of Christ’s resurrection. Call it divine composting (bad pun…sorry). In other words, we believe that not only was Jesus raised from the dead. Perhaps more important is that Jesus is God’s revelation to us, God’s unmasking the deeper truth of reality. So resurrection wasn’t a one-off event for Christ alone. It’s the structure of this world in which we live and move and have our being. Compost piles reflect that story, just as the abundant fertilizer of God’s mercy does too, along with the never-ending in-breaking of forgiveness to us and through us, we who follow Christ’s lead, who believe that life will always be more powerful than- indeed, will always overcome!- death itself.

The key is remembering that we don’t stop death and endings. Instead, we encounter resurrections, risings to new life, transformations from what was into what will be. A loss is painful and sad. That doesn’t mean you’ll never gain something again. A failure is heartbreaking and hard. That doesn’t mean you’ll never succeed at anything else. New beginnings emerge from the soil of God’s resurrection-infused reality all the time. They maybe came from a beloved former beginning’s ending. Organic composting process isn’t without breakdown, heat and churning. But through it all, resurrection and transformation are in process too.

So as you see those waste piles at church, remember they’re a sign of what God might be doing in your life too, if you’re willing for new life to rise again.

Grace and Peace,
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