When I served a church with a columbarium, I imagined where I wanted my ashes. It’s morbid, I know. But it’s a professional hazard. It’s the sort of thought that we have when we bury people so often. I want to be spread in nature. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I want to become a part of the life and soil of the pulsing ground.
If you’ve been fired or forced out, it doesn’t always mean you need to fold up the cloth all together. It’s incredibly painful. We might feel a spiritual rejection that we’ve never experienced. We may have a loss of identity. Betrayal might become wounds that are so deep that we don’t feel like we’ll be able to love a congregation again. We may feel abandoned by God. But sometimes we just need to need to endure the ache, walk through the rejection, and find a place where our gifts can flourish.
It is a subtle shift that we make in our liturgy and preaching. But it’s an important one. We do terrible things and we must confess our action. But we are good. We are made in the image of God. And in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven people.
The point is, I wonder if this might be a time to remember that God was present in the temple and the tabernacle. I love architecture. I love soaring structures and hope we can find uses for them. But I also realize that they have become a tremendous burden for many congregations to do the sort of love-your-neighbor work that they long to do. Are we moving into a moment when we need those tent pegs in order to be led where God wants us?
There’s something very refreshing about being able to laugh. It disarms the situation and takes away the power from the critic. It reminds me not to take myself so seriously. It gives me perspective on the situation. It helps me not to hate myself, because otherwise I’d be crying or drinking. Or, I’d be stuffing it down into my gut, until the toxicity becomes ulcer-sized.
I recently read The Circle, Dave Egger’s dystopian novel about a benevolent Internet company that eerily creeps into every aspect of our lives, taking it over, one smiley emoticon at a time. Think about it like this: a company encompasses Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and then it begins to partner with the government.
As we know the shooting of Michael Brown was not just one incident, in one town. The reason that the fear and concern grew was because it was that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the outcry of people who have been living under a system that has targeted young black men.