By Pastor Nathan Hollifield | Originally in The Spire
Time is a curious sort of thing when we begin to reflect on it deeply. Most of us are taught to think of time in three distinct categories: past, present, and future. The past is thought of as what we might consider “history;” the present then is a significant duration perhaps a decade or more (depending on who you ask); and the future refers to a time well beyond our experience.
In these terms Epworth LeSourd’s “past” represents the days when pews and Sunday School classrooms were full and our impact on the community was tangible. The “present” featured our community’s decline and its attempts to recover. The “present” would also include our church’s decision to discontinue our ministries and give away our remaining resources. And the “future” would be all that time beyond our knowing other than the awareness that our hopes and dreams for a renewed past will not come to fruition.
When I meet people in the community who know that our church is soon to close many are often stuck in this understanding of time. Thus, they respond to our current situation with some version of pity or remorse as if our best days are behind us, the present is something to be avoided, and any tangible future is impossible. This model of time really isolates us unnecessarily from biblical ways of thinking. In doing so, we are boxed-out of opportunities for faith formation and spiritual maturation during what is most assuredly a season of heightened spiritual and emotional awareness.
[pull_quote_left]Christians understand time as an ever-flowing continuum between what we remember and what we anticipate. [/pull_quote_left]You see the biblical witness and the testimony of the Church does not isolate past, present, and future into separate boxes. Christians instead understand time as an ever-flowing continuum between what we remember and what we anticipate. Our remembering is not just a mental exercise. It is, rather, active participation of the past in the present as it is in the Lord’s Supper when we “do this in remembrance” of Christ’s life, suffering, death, and resurrection. And our anticipation is not a prediction or blind hope. It is the active ushering in of God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” that is revealed in Christ. In other words, our remebrance brings God’s past into our present, and our anticipation brings God’s future into our present.
So what does any of this mean for the people of Epworth LeSourd? It means that the life of our community is not bound by the world’s limited understanaing of time. Our community and its impact will not vanish when the final postlude is played. As a manifestation of Christ’s body, our local church is part of an ongoing celebration of Jesus’ salvation that has definitely occurred and that we affirm will definitely happen in fullness. This is the “mystery of our faith:” that “Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.” And at the core of this mystery is the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
The resurrection is not the promise that Epworth LeSourd will be resuscitated. It is far more profound than this. It means that our church’s existence has been, is, and will be taken up into God’s plan for the renewal of creation with “Christ is all in all” (Col.3: 1 1).
This is a life worth celebration and thanksgiving and that’s precisely what we’ll do on Sunday, June 14 at 4:00pm. I hope you will join us!