By the Rev. Cara Scriven | Tacoma District Superintendent
Early every morning, I sneak out of bed, down into the deep quiet of our home. I eat breakfast followed by prayer and meditation. Just as the children are stirring, I begin my workout for the day. A couple of times a week, this workout includes some yoga practice. My twins occasionally will take a break from drawing and playing to join me. It always brings a smile to my face (and soul) to watch as they attempt to contort their bodies into the latest yoga pose.
One morning last week, the girls decided to join me in my last pose—corpse—which is the final relaxation pose of my yoga practice. It entails laying on your back with your palms facing up and your feet hanging out to the sides. I invited the girls to join me by saying, “Come practice being a corpse, a dead person. Let’s play dead.” The girls giggled and laid down next to me. One daughter was on my right and couldn’t stop laughing so I said, “Dead people don’t laugh.” This caused her sister to start giggling. Laughing was a wonderful way to end my practice that morning.
Later in the day as I was reflecting on this event, I immediately thought of Simba from the Lion King, who said, “I laugh in the face of danger.” In many ways, my children were laughing in the face of, not danger, but death. From a faith perspective, this is a very appropriate response. Paul offers something similar when he writes to the church in Corinth:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting.”
-I Corinthians 15:54-55
As Christians, we believe that death has not won, is not final, and is not the end. We believe instead in the resurrection; we believe in the hope of new life. In our lives, the local church, and the institutional church, we do not always live as if the resurrection is a real possibility. Instead, we hold on to anything that will keep the end from coming and we avoid the topic at all cost.
In my first year as superintendent, I believed it was my responsibility to bring this topic out into the open. Death was coming and it can’t be stop. Pastors were going to retire, churches were going to close, and the institutional church had to let things go. These things indeed have happened and will continue to occur in our lives, churches, districts, and the conference. And yet, something new is happening.
In the last few weeks, I feel like something is beginning to spring up. The Holy Spirit is moving among us and new things are starting to emerge. Some of the amazing things I’ve seen the last few months include:
- Local congregations taking in new members in groups rather than one at a time.
- Pastors focusing on how to best provide transformational opportunities to their communities.
- A church once holding onto their past emerging with excitement and joy as they look to their future.
- Pastors letting go of competition in favor of utilizing their unique gifts to lead their congregations in new ways.
- Some emerging opportunities for planting new congregations in the district.
- Lay members stepping up to lead their faith communities in new directions.
- A church developing bold plans to open a second site in the next 5 years.
As I travel to churches and meet with leaders throughout the fall, it would be hard to ignore these signs of new life. In the last few weeks, they have become almost palpable. What is interesting is that in each congregation that has begun to transform, they have done so from a place of deep spiritual grounding.
While there is still much work that needs to be done, it is amazing to catch a glimpse of the resurrection even if it is still on the horizon. The resurrection is real and it is coming. As Paul says, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed…” (1 Corinthians 15:51).
Perhaps, one day soon, we might take a lesson from two 6 year olds and learn to laugh at death as well. Laughter is far more freeing than fear or anxiety.
Image Credit: Werner Moser via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.