There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4, 7 (NIV)
The cool, crisp, mornings are upon us. It is a sure sign that fall is here. The seasons are changing. The hot, muggy, days of summer are gone. The cold, dark, winter is drawing near. The vibrant green and new life of spring is both a distant memory and a far-off future. It is the way of things, seasons change.
It really is not all that different in the church. There are seasons of growth, seasons of harvest, seasons of stillness, and seasons of new life. And, while the writer of Ecclesiastes is right, there is a time for everything, sometimes it is hard to know what season it is. And, it is certainly hard to push forward during those times of death, weeping, uprooting, mourning, tearing, and silence.
In writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul says “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything.” (Eph. 4:15, The Message) So, let’s lovingly talk about the truth for a few moments. I am concerned about the season we find ourselves in as a community of faith. Let’s be honest, attendance is low, positions are being resigned, expenses are greater than our giving. It is not a rosy picture. All of these things may make us anxious, and rightly so.
But, no one ever said being a community of faith would be easy. No one ever said following after Jesus would be easy. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself said the exact opposite: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.” (Mt. 4:13-14, The Message)
The way of God is difficult and requires our complete focus. The journey will be hard, but we do not walk alone. The beauty of being part of a community of faith is that we walk alongside one another, we help carry each other’s burdens, and we celebrate each other’s joys along the road of life. I recently told a friend that I did not want to wander in the wilderness, to which they replied, “There is no other group of people I’d rather wander in the wilderness with.”
My friend is right. If we have to stay in the wilderness for a generation, I cannot think of anyone I’d rather do that with. And, while they were in the wilderness, Israel found that God provided; bread from heaven and water from the rock. Honestly, I have to say I’m a little excited to see how God provides for us, because I have faith God will provide.
In addition, I would be remiss if I did not point out some of the very good things that are happening in our journey. Because there are things to celebrate, there is evidence of God’s great love and presence in our midst. There are new relationships being formed. There is a renewed desire to study the Bible and to learn about God. There are new lives being committed to following Jesus. We celebrated a baptism last Sunday and plans are already being made for our next celebration! It reminds me of one of my favorite hymns:
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
God is working in our midst. We just have to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to follow.