Monday, August 15, 2016

Preaching in Hocking Hills

For the fourth time this year, I drove to Hocking Hills to preach at three churches on Sunday morning.  It is an experience that is like no other for me.

First of all, there is the reality of three services to lead, to preach and in two - to play the piano.  This week there were 6 people at the first church, 8 at the second and 6 at the third.

There is the sweetness and the friendliness of the people.  Every church has one or two people that clearly are the leaders - that have arranged for the commnion and are keeping it all together.  They always greet me and Chuck with affection and it feels very welcoming to be there.

But most of all there is a sadness about it all.  At each church I heard stories of how long they have tried to "keep it going."  At the first church there was a woman who spoke about her 80 years sitting in these pews and her memories of attending church with her father.  At the second church I heard about how one man's grandfather had built the church on his farmland and how another man had upholstered every one of these pews himself.

And at the third church I had a long conversation about how hard they have tried - knocking on doors and doing everything they know how to do - to bring people to come and worship.  Here is a picture of that church - the only one in town:

And I listen to them - as I listen to the people at other churches where they now have a part time minister after decades of full time pastoring and I commiserate.  And wonder about the future of these little churches myself.

My sermon was about how when we follow Jesus we learn that it is about movement which means being willing to "let go"  I quoted that passage -  "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."  The truth is that we spend a lot of time looking back and wanting everything to remain the same - in our churches and in our lives.  And that whole idea of moving forward into an unknown future seems impossible.

These three churches - plus the other 2 in that charge - have a meeting Thursday in which supposedly they are going to have to make some hard decisions.  Maybe they will or maybe they won't.  Churches and people can wait a long time before finally ending relationships or churches. 

what I know to be true is this - it is easier to talk about change than do it.  And it is easy to prescribe it for another but really hard when it is your history and your memories and your comfort that is at stake.

So I pray for these  faithful Christians.  Here is a blessing from Silver Linings by Maxine Shonk that seems appropriate:

May you know blessing when you are feeling apprehensive about many things
and anxiety blocks the vision of your life.
At those times may you recall that God's vision for you remains steadfast and clear,
that you are held on a steady course toward the very heart of God.
May this remembering bring you back to a place of peace, a place of letting go and letting God guid your life.
May this God of CLEAR VISION bless you.

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