When she was in the final stages of cancer, my mother used to advise us: "After I die, you can come visit my grave, if you wish, but I'm not going to be there." I always appreciated the deep theology of her comment, and I have not felt led to visit her grave in the 26 years since she died. I prefer to envision my mother before her body was ravaged with cancer. On the night of her death, I recall being in the living room and looking at her portrait, which had been painted when she was about 35 years old. My immediate thought was that she was back to the way she was then. On the first Easter day, when the women took the spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body, the angels asked, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" That was a very direct way of proclaiming his resurrection! In short, they were saying, "He ain't here." Thanks to Jesus, all of us will experience a resurrection, too. It may not be a physical resurrection on earth, like his, but it will be even better. I will take the Kingdom of Heaven over earth any day of the week! During the month of May, we continue our celebration of Easter. As you recall, the season lasts for 50 days from Easter Day, so we will end Easter on the Feast of Pentecost on June 4th. The celebration continues, as well as the hope. We can visit loved one's graves as often as we wish, but the Easter Angels and my mother, were correct: They're not there!
Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church, grew out of the determination of the General Convention in 1934 to counter a period of anxiety, distrust, and decline in the Episcopal Church with a "forward movement" charged to "reinvigorate the life of the church and to rehabilitate its general, diocesan, and parochial work." Daily meditation is available online by clicking HERE.
As you know, I spent 4 years in undergraduate study at Vanderbilt, and I worked in the banking industry for about 10 years before going to seminary. I felt a deep connection to Nashville because of those years. I watched the Batman Building's construction outside of my office window!
During the 3 years of seminary and serving my first church in Manchester 7 years, I always missed Music City. I was pleased when I had the opportunity to return.
However, when I did come "back home," I had been gone for 10 years. My old friends we're not accustomed to my presence. Many people had forgotten about me. The landscape of downtown had changed, but only slightly. I didn't feel the connection as strongly as I had in the past.
I compare the Nashville skyline of today to that in my college years. Talk about a drastic change! Strange as it may seem, I feel no connection at all. Perhaps it's because I didn't have the opportunity to finance some of it as a banker.
I miss the old Nashville, quite frankly. I miss local banks and the community leaders of the past. They say our growth is "community development," and I'm sure it is. I'm also sure that we could have grown and "developed" without building a bunch of new skyscrapers and having a massive influx of "outsiders."
When I was serving another congregation, I asked the Vestry members what brought them there. It was unanimous. They loved the environment of a small church. When I asked their hopes for the future, they said that they wanted to grow into a large church. How funny! They wanted to become an institution that they really didn't prefer.
Growth. Sometimes it is very intentional. Sometimes it is not.
In our spiritual lives God is going to make growth happen, whether we want him to do so or not....... whether we really like it or not..... and whether we are ready for it or not.