Over the course of a year, it is estimated that 19 million Americans will re-locate themselves to a new residence. For the second time in a year, my family has joined that club as we are in the midst of the ever-exhausting process of packing up our life that we have created and hauling it across town. This is not the first time we have done this, and we are thankful that this is a short move just across the city.
As we pack up our house and prepare to load it on to the truck, we have the "joy" of being reminded that we have a lot of stuff. I don't say that in a "heylookatuslookhowgreatwearewithallourstuff" kind of way, I say it more like, "OHMYGAWDWHEREDIDALLTHISSTUFFCOMEFROM???"
Stuff. Our culture is built upon the premise of the more stuff we have the more "successful" and "happy" we must be. Whether it be clothes, games, toys, tools, or whatever our particular pleasure might be, most of us like to have stuff. But there's a bitter irony to be found in the quest to accumulate higher quantities of (usually) more expensive belongings. We don't usually think about how much stuff we have until it's time to move it. And so one of the benefits of moving is that we are given the opportunity to sort through our stuff and determine what we want to hold on to and of what we can finally let go.
As we have been loading up our house I have had to sift through all sorts of things to determine if they make the cut to get loaded onto the moving truck. Everything in our home has an emotion or memory attached to it, but not everything is headed to our new home. As we pack up our home in preparation for our move we find ourselves in a state of flux as we seek to determine what is worthy of the effort to pack-up, load, and unload. There is a strange mixture of joy and sadness to be found in this process as we ask questions regarding what is "keepable." Do I need to keep the awards I was given during my college Fraternity days? Perhaps not. Do we keep the first sleepers that our baby wore after coming home from the hospital? Absolutely. #priorities
Our stuff represents our life, it is a tangible manifestation of our experiences, both positive and otherwise. This is why it becomes so difficult to let go of our accumulated possessions. Every item, in its own way, has an experience, a person, and a memory attached to it, and perhaps within the depths of our heart we are afraid that if we part with that possession, we part with that memory or perhaps even the person to whom the memory was attached. We have invested a great deal into our stuff and letting go can be painful.
Just as this is true for us, the same is true for the Church. The Church now finds itself in a difficult situation where it's current living situation is no longer tenable and thus is now on the move. We find ourselves in that state of flux as we prepare to load up the Ecclesiastical moving truck and head down the road into an uncertain, yet promising future. We have the opportunity to make some decisions regarding what we are bringing along for the journey and what we will choose to leave behind.
In doing so, so many within the Christian community are experiencing that same mixture of joy and sadness as we examine our priorities. This is a difficult task for the Church because there perhaps is no other place on God's earth were stuff accumulates and becomes sacred faster than within the walls of the local church.
But it's not just physical stuff, is it? We're packing up more than our books, chalices, crosses, and crock pots. The Church also has a whole lot of emotional baggage that we must we cart along as well. We fondly remember the "glory days" and the "way we've always done it." We talk to no end about former pastors or members that are long since gone. We remember that great VBS from years ago or the wonderful potluck dinner that was held once. Each room within the church building is filled with invisible stuff that we lug from year to year, minister to minister and perhaps even building to building.
I often wonder how this emotional baggage that we lug along is preventing us from enjoying the journey and from boldly venturing into the unknown. Are we using this"stuff" as a way to fondly remember our legacy or as a convenient excuse to not take risks of future ministry?
Just as I wonder what it would be like for our family to just let go of most of our belongings (tiny houses, anyone?) I wonder what it would be like for the Church if we reached the point where we were willing/able to just part with all of our baggage and just start fresh. While this is an admittedly unlikely scenario, the reality is that we as the Church are going to have to let go of a few things as we move into whatever is coming next.
Though we do not know what, exactly, the Church of the future is going to look like, the one certainty is that it is going to be a much lighter and leaner version of its current self. The Church is going to have to be mobile, flexible, adaptable, and ready to respond to needs and circumstances as they arise. This is what Jesus' vision for the Church was in the first place. And now, after accumulating power, prestige, wealth, and all this stuff, the Church finally has the opportunity to live into the original plan for itself. And for this to be realized, we are all going to have to let go of a whole heck of a lot.