God + 2 Births + a Walk
May 1 was supposed to be the day that we carried special items from our old sanctuary to our new one. I was supposed to lead the remembrance and celebration on that day as God re-birthed our church. Instead, I, ironically, found myself in the delivery room welcoming our son into the world. God is funny.
May 1 was the start of our shared lease with Jewish Congregation Am HaYam. It was the day that some of us were going to take the spiritual items that meant so much to us from our old property to our new one. Our congregation did something similar in 1962 when we last moved, so we figured that we should do it again to honor our previous moves. We had a wagon, which became our ark that we carried into a new place to call home. We had a cross, offering plates, communion plate, communion chalices (#ccdoc), the prayer shawl that was knitted for me at my installation by our prayer shawl ministry, a Bible, a directory, a pamphlet about how the “The Time is Now” for us to build a new sanctuary from 1962, and some other items. Did I mention coffee, tea, and homemade energy bars with chocolate and peanut butter (WWJD, right?)?
Phidippides ran about 150 miles in two days from Athens to Sparta to ask for help during an invasion. Sparta declined and said something to the gist of “not right now.” We walked a little over 5k (3.1 miles for my friends in the USA). Unlike Phidippides who died when he finished running back to Sparta to tell them that they defeated the Persians, we arrived ready to gather the community together, break bread, and share stories about life.
I want to break down the line “we walked forward together.”
We did the walk. Some of us did it literally. Some of us did it spiritually. Some of us did it as we slept (that counts, right?). Nonetheless, there are plenty of opportunities to do things by ourselves in our lives, but it is important to be a part of a “we.”
We walked. We could have transported the items as we did in 1962. We probably could have ridden in a nice 1957 Chevy Bel Air! Instead, we decided to walk because it was not the easiest thing to do. We could have arrived at our new space in many different ways. However, following Jesus is not about taking the easy way. It is about being people of the Way (as following Jesus was called many years ago) while being people on the way.
We walked forward. We could have completely mimicked our spiritual ancestors by walking back to our other sanctuary (1923 to 1961), which is now the Rubicon Theatre. We could have also walked to the sanctuary that we worshipped in during the years of 1901 to 1923. We could have tried to do everything like we did in the past. However, Jesus doesn’t want to be mimicked. Mimicking important people in our live is not the best way to honor them. The best way to honor the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us is to walk forward into an unknown future, but one that will honor those important people.
We walked forward together. Together? Yes, together! We walked together with all of the individuals who are looking to be a part of a community that is willing to walk. As I walked with Jennifer Tihomirov, our worship leader, she told me that she walks 5 miles a day. She is often gone for hours because she stops and says hello to her neighbors (and the dogs also say hello as dogs tend to do — sniff sniff). It is funny how people are often eager to arrive after a long car or plane ride. It makes me wonder when churches “arrive.” For me, if the message of Jesus rings true, then life isn’t about arriving. It is about walking…forward…together.
Our son, Malachi, was born on the day that this walk was supposed to occur. Instead, God shared a new creation with Annie, me, and the world. God is at work (again) doing something new with our church. We don’t need to die running to Sparta, but we do need to let parts of ourselves and our previous ways of thinking, doing, and being die in order for new life to spring forth. It is going to happen because we are willing to walk forward together! I have my walking shoes on. Do you?
This blog was written when Jonathan served as pastor of a church in California. Jonathan Hall is currently the senior pastor at First Christian Church, Colorado Springs. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.