Paul Olsen

on the way…not there yet

October 22 2021

Would you give your church away?  I believe I have a taker if you will.  The Immanuel you know and love—what would you take in trade?  Could you part with it?

Because in many ways, you have, haven’t you?  If you were here in 2019, or even if you weren’t, nothing is quite the same anymore.  You worship online, or you worship in person, but either way, it’s different, not quite the same anymore, and church is not likely to ever be quite the same again.

But then, that’s true about just about everything in your life in these pandemic times.  You work at home, you wear a mask; you’re fully vaccinated (I hope) and yet wonder if you should get a booster; you gather, if you gather with others at all, cautiously. 

We live leery, cautious, testing the waters, wondering when it will be safe to go back in.  We grieve the loss of the normal, not quite sure what the new normal will be.  2020 was different, and 2021 different from 2020, and 2022 is unknown territory.

Yet in the midst of all this, dear Immanuel, others have wandered to your doorstep and found you.  Your Mission & Life Committee has found a community around you that is looking—longing—for a church that will be relevant to their needs and hopes.

They’d like a church perhaps like this one … if you are willing to give it away, they’d take you up on it.  They would love to be the new Immanuel.  It could be something you could build together; if you are willing to part with it, you might discover it anew.

When the pandemic chaos of these past couple of years begins to wear on me, I often think of the creation story in Genesis 1:  In the beginning, the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters….

It is an ancient picture of chaos—that’s how creation begins.  A formless void—indistinct, uncertain, what-is-this-mess?  Darkness—with lights shining on everything, we forget how terrifying complete darkness is.  The face of the deep—whenever you read of the deep, the sea, the waters in scripture, there is danger: boats were small and flimsy, the sea was wild and unpredictable.

Creation begins with chaos.

I love the idea of God, brooding over this hopeless mess of things, and thinking, “Hmmm.  I could make something out of this!”  And God takes our chaos and begins to form order and beauty.

God creates a thing of beauty, and then calls us to be stewards of it—to enjoy it, first of all, and to love it and care for it, first of all.  And to share it, first of all. 

Imagine God,  brooding over this pandemic chaos, pondering the disruptions in your life and mine, picking up the pieces of our scattered normal, finding a church called Immanuel (which means, of course, ‘God with us’) that will never be the same again, and thinking what many of us find impossible to imagine:  “Hmmm…I could make something out of this!”

And then, creating something new out of us, something we have not yet imagined, something unexpected and maybe a little disturbing, even disruptive, maybe not what we wanted, something we cannot recognize—except as a thing of beauty.

The Mission and Life Committee has completed its work and is ready to report back on what they discovered.  A new Call Committee has been appointed by the Council.  This weekend, all three—Mission & Life, Call Committee, and Council—will spend Saturday morning workshoping together, trying to imagine what God could be doing among us.

No one knows what the new will be, but one thing is for sure:  The New Is Here!

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