Preparing for worship – Heather Mustain.
The late Phyllis Tickle, in her book The Great Emergence, suggests that every 500 years the church has its own rummage sale, cleaning out old forms of spirituality and embarking on the process of finding new ones. Today we celebrate Reformation Sunday — a day credited to theologian and Catholic monk Martin Luther, who launched perhaps the greatest rummage sale in church history, the Protestant Reformation.
With this imagery in mind 505 years later, it’s interesting to think about where we, the church, are today. Although many depressing signs of declining church participation and attendance existed pre-pandemic, the pandemic itself accelerated trends and I’d argue has plopped us smack dab in the middle of our own rummage sale. It becomes essential for us, for our community of faith, to then embark on the process of rummaging, to ask tough questions and engage in hard conversations about where we have been, where we are going and what we will allow ourselves to become.
This process of rummaging is sure to be fraught with fear, unanswered questions and an uneasiness of living in the in-between. Our very nature desires comfort and certainty, sometimes forcing a tight grip on what we find to be normal ways of operating, worshipping, communing, shaping, dreaming. But the very act of rummaging is filled with unearthed treasures and unexpected paths. And it takes a whole lot of faith, believing that the results will be worth the effort.
In Letters to a Young Poet, the late Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to an aspiring artist these words: “have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
To re-form is to change. And change is hard. But there is nothing permanent in life except change. So let’s get to rummaging so we don’t miss all that God has yet to do.