Perhaps you have seen the large desk diaries that many of the clergy carry with them. I know that mine is very important to me and I cannot think of what I would do without it. I have carried one since the summer of 1990 when I was given my first one by a supervisor and was encourage to write everything I need to do and everything that I had done down on paper. It has helped me to do things and get things done. My calendar has even helped me to have the occasion rest on a day off and get me organized for an annual holiday. I’d like to think that my life because of this particular book is organized and helps me to be productive for the Church and therefore faithful in my priesthood to God.
And then I reminded that it is the end… but not just yet. I was recently reminded that the Church is what you have left after the building has burned down and the clergy has fled town. I often think of a particular moment in ministry when I walked into the local store to get things for New Year’s Eve and the little gathering we were planning with friends at their house. There was lots of fear that particular year around the turn of the century because of something known as Y2K. Remember the Y2K bug? People were discussing the heavy subject of the end of things, time in particular when I walked in the store. Of course when I was spotted, some said in a loud voice. “O look there is the Minister. Ask him!” One of the regulars came to me and asked the question they all want to know, “What’s the world coming to, sir?” In one of moments of clarity, I pulled off my cap and scarf and boldly pronounced, “An end.” The once bustling store, thrumming with enthusiasm and excitement fell suddenly quiet. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop.
Realizing I said something that could be earth shattering to the folks around me, I asked for a few minutes to go and get what was on my list and then I would come back to them and we would talk. This gave me time not only to pray, furiously, it gave me time to organize my thoughts so that I might help these folks understand that thought things are crumbling, God is still with us. And having just come through the feast and were still in the season of Christmas I realized that something really powerful had happened. God’s salvation had come to us in the form of a child; someone who is small, is weak and who to most of the world anyway is hidden from plain sight. And look at what the Church has grown into. It has grown. There was a time in the life of the nation of Israel where the place of meeting was a tent. Yet we as humans fell the need and desire to manage things. And because we take charge the walls once soft and supple, allowing the Spirit to billow through have instead become stiff, rigid, calcified. The tent has filled with lots of furniture. And the Church builds its weight and height until it is unmanageable and is ready to topple in on itself.
Jesus calls to those who live in the rubble of this exiled age and invite them to follow him into a new way. A way that is not easily determined nor is it found with quick decisions or undemanding choices. Jesus offers the courage and the trust necessary to way a new way of life, a life that will in the face of the culture and society that we live in will face ridicule and persecution. And some of those who will pursue you will be those you would call family and friends. Yet, we to not walk this new path alone. Jesus walks the path with us. Jesus has promised that we will not be alone. He has promised that he will be with every step of the way. Whenever we gather in twos and threes for prayer in his name, he will be there. Whenever we gather to share in the bread and wine through thanksgiving, he will be there. When he is actively proclaimed by word and deed, he will be there. Whenever the least, lost and the last of his brothers and sister is served, it is him we serve. And we wait for the kingdom that is here and yet we are still waiting for it in full. Until then Jesus is with us and we are not, in the face of disaster, alone. That is in short, what I told those folks at the store more than ten years ago. I told them it was the end... but not just yet. He is with us and we are not alone no matter what date or time it is, no matter what the calendar says. Thanks be to God Christ is with us.