I’ve been thinking a lot in February, I tend to think a lot generally this time of year mostly because the weather is a little what I would describe as it just cannot make up its mind what it wants to do. Self-reflection is often good thing to do periodically, but I have not just been self-reflecting this month. Seriously, one can only look so long at their own belly button before it becomes fully self-centered and ego filled…. Instead of focusing on me, I’ve been thinking about you all and our community.
I was reminded of an old friend I had a long time ago, who loved old cars. Cars on my mind because well, I was attempting to watch the Daytona 500 yesterday which had a rain delay until Monday sadly. I have a long love affair with the automobiles and racing cars, used to be something I focused my life around, but that was a long time ago- we would call those classic or antique memories in car lingo. Back to my old friend here it makes me smile to remember him looking at some really old cars he found out in a field, coming back and us the friends all sitting around the table laughing at the pictures as he with passion told us- they may look rough, but they have potential! One of them had a tree growing out of the center, so I think you can get the picture here a bit, the car still had a solid framework but things were definitely overtaking even hiding in places from the weeds what had been at some point a glorious sedan with some big white sidewalls. My friend spluttered, “Hey we just gotta cut down that tree and bingo, it’s free once again!” Those old cars were sturdy, leather interiors, tough iron frames which could withstand hitting something without breaking into a million shattered shards of plastic. They certainly don’t make them quite like that anymore. Ahh, I can almost smell the musty leather infused insides of my first Nova a 74, with brown, cream, and orange interior.
We razzed my friend Jeff about that moment in time for years off and on over the car with the tree in the center, someone occasionally using the phrase, “well, it’s got potential” when something came up that needed a laugh or a reminder of how what looks lost, dead, or overgrown can be reclaimed, made new, and given new life. He was a unique man of vision, always looked at things from different perspectives, and that truly was a gift to us all. He eventually got an old car, reclaimed it and made it new just like he said he would. Vision is important in the eyes of the creator
As Jeff would have said today, I imagine, it just needed the right touch ups, a vision of its potential from a different perspective, a recreation or reimagination of what it might look like in today’s world. Especially given a new engine, inner workings at the heart of it, so it would be a smarter car, more responsive one to its environment. A vehicle whose creator realized it had to evolve if it wanted to traverse the hills and valleys once again and rack up some mileage beginning at odometer zero once more in its newness of life.
Coming round the circle here into the backstretch, when I was thinking about our community, and you all the people that surround that community I was struck by the realization that there are a lot of relationships out there that are yet to be made, are hiding in or overtaken by the weeds, and some where it appears well that a tree must get cut down to free them up. Now that I am older and wiser, I would have still laughed at Jeff, but I also would see his divine sense of vision and how important that is to look at things differently to imagine the evolution to what might be, to see how the creator determines when something is ready to be dismantled or put to rest. I thank God our creator he never stops seeing the potential in each of us in our communities, and in our relationship potential. He takes what is broken, overgrown, rusted, out of date and promises new life, new purpose, new heart and mind so we can engage once again. The landscape may have changed but we are being invited to let him mold us, to see ourselves differently, to operate in new ways.
There may be frigid days yet in February, but we all have faith that spring is coming just around the corner like it does every year—I know that’s truth. Let’s take that same faith and start looking around us, see what’s hidden or overtaken in the landscape around us, lets reclaim it, renew it, and re-engage with it. Maybe call that old friend from high school, stop in and have a conversation with that neighbor or relative you’ve been feuding with for years, make right a business dealing that was less than fair or a situation where you knew you did not do the right thing- go back and set things straight. It might seem like there’s too many miles between, but when you put the right fuel in its amazing what happens. So, as they are about to say once again today at Daytona, start your engines! And I say thanks be to God, I knew you had that potential inside you, all the time!
God loves you and So do I! Pastor Suzy
“Ch ch changes…Turn and face the strange…Ch-ch-changes… Just gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I can't trace time.” David Bowie
The beauty of fall…That nip is back in the air this morning, it happened overnight almost! I am always shocked at how in Minnesota, no matter how much we expect the change to a new season, it always catches us a little by surprise.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV
I have experienced a lot of changes over the last couple months, and I am here to tell you. We as humans don’t like changes! Even when they are amazing and good changes to make, it is still hard to take that leap of faith to make a change, especially after a lot of time has passed, we get comfortable with what we know.
Life has changed. It is just not the same as it was twenty or even fifty years ago. I never thought I would be one looking back in time reflecting upon “the good ole days”; but I find myself feeling a bit nostalgic at moments reminded of the past, and thinking it was simpler in some ways. One of the things I mourn is our loss of connection to one another, we just don’t know our neighbors, our children’s friends, or even our friends as closely as we did in the past. Relationships have become more superficial; the internet has become more our mainstream way of getting our news and we frequently do our socializing and check-ins on Facebook instead of face to face.
Change is constant; God reminds us through the seasons that just like nature around us we are constantly being transformed. We are always growing, changing and being pruned, blooming, resting dormant, and are renewed to life once again through the Spirit that alive within us from the time of our baptism. It is both exciting and scary as we go through these seasons of our lives, and we often must let go of the old and embrace new ways and new ideas. I realized recently when moving that I had some clothes that were older than my children! It was time to let them go… I recall in the 1980’s thinking that cell phones were just a fad and look at us now- land lines are becoming a rarity and our reliance on technology has become the norm- my youngest son has never known life without the presence of a cell phone.
Church has changed. We see our membership demographics altering slowly, our ways of worship evolving, and ways in which we share information and view ourselves as a community is constantly changing. As we look to the very margins of our world, we know there is a greater message and hope to be found here in all this change-- it is in our mission to “share God’s love with all people.” This means we must be faithful to maintain and nourish those face-to-face relationships within the church and looking outside ourselves to create and nourish relationships with our neighbors in the greater community.
God invites us to change. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NRSV
Discernment is an engaged action which must be constant within our church, and one God invites us all to embrace personally every day. We need to seek the Spirit of God to find what God is inviting us into and what He is inviting our church to be a part of within the community outside of our doors. We must examine our hearts and our calendars to know if we are as a church using our time and talents in all the ways God wishes us to, or are we just keeping busy, marking time until the next season comes because we are comfortable. Are we becoming stagnant pools or are we renewed streams flowing outward to nourish all those we touch?
Join me in praying together for the council, our pastors, and our congregation to be empowered by the Spirit as they look to new ways of doing things, new technologies, vision together as a whole and embrace many new changes. May God take us into this new season with overflowing hearts of thanksgiving for all that he has done for the past hundred years here in Mahtowa at Salem, and all he will continue to do and invite us into through this church community. I am excited, encouraged, humbled, and inspired by you all each time we meet!
Blessings, Pastor Suzy