Being Fit for Anything
“It is not the crisis that builds something within us—it simply reveals what we are made of already…If you are not doing the task that is closest to you now, which God has engineered into your life, when the crisis comes, instead of being fit for battle, you will be revealed as being unfit…” Oswald Chambers
Tomorrow, the nation’s eyes will be looking backward, commemorating that unforgettable tragedy and the onset of a decade of turbulence, war and struggle. Ten years ago, the churches of the nation filled. Our shocked hearts longed for the embrace of other human souls, our teary eyes looked toward the heavens with the prayer of the psalms—“from whence will my help come?”
And the churches stayed filled. For about six months. Within a year, church attendance across the country and interest in Christian faith was lower than it had been before the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. Even as we asked our younger men and women to go off to war, we at home went back to business as usual. We went shopping, we bought houses and we went into so much debt that we are now in the throes of a recession that seems like it could last as long as the war.
What did the crises of the past decade reveal about us? What light has it shed upon the readiness of our hearts? Have we seen what we are made of?
At San Clemente Presbyterian Church, we found that while the huge crowds of the fall of 2001 didn’t last, a number of people who came stayed. And a number of those who sought embrace actually became embracers of others. We voted to tear down our buildings two weeks after 9/11. (I still get choked up thinking of the trusting souls who passed that vote in the midst of so much uncertainty.) We started a building project that would take almost all of the next decade. We truly transformed into a “Community FOR the community.” And we continued to grow.
What we discovered about ourselves this past decade is that we are a forward-looking, mission-focused COMMUNITY. We embrace each other when we are fearful, we wrap our arms around families who are sending their beloved ones into harm’s way, we welcome those without spiritual homes and we will do practically anything (including tearing our church down to the ground and rebuilding it) in order to “prepare a place” for all.
Tomorrow morning, Pastor Charlie Campbell will preach. He will remind us of that which never changes. He will bring us into the presence of God and continue to pastor our hearts as worshippers. I will be at a sister church in Long Beach for the morning.
San Clemente Presbyterian Church was founded by Christians from Long Beach. Over 80 years ago they used to drive up the long single-lane highway on Sunday mornings to help plant a church in a community that was then far off the beaten track. What started as a beach Bible Study and a small cadre of people who didn’t have a building for over 25 years has become this vibrant, fit, community of 1400 members. And tomorrow, I’ll go to return the favor.
I have been asked by Pastor Chris Logan, of Community Presbyterian Church in Long Beach to come and lead them in a Sunday morning worship and a retreat next Saturday to consider their future. They too want to be a church that is fit for the challenges before them. They too want to consider what God would have them do to be a blessing to the community around them. I will go and tell them the story of what our brothers and sisters in Long Beach did so many decades ago. I will go and tell them about a church that has become so filled with faith that when other churches went into decline, they poured themselves out in love. I will go and tell them that they are not alone as they seek to live into their future.
Ten years ago, we discovered that our commitment to the scriptures, to being a Christian community and to shared mission was what we were made of. Tomorrow, as we look back, we’ll also keep asking God to use the coming years to make us fit for the work of the Kingdom. I’ll pray for you as you worship, please pray for me as I speak.
I’ll see you next Sunday and will tell you all about it.