Rejoicing in Renewal
Standing in a familiar pulpit recently, I suddenly realized I did not recognize most of the people in the pews in front of me. At one time, I was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Sapulpa. They were my home church throughout the ordination process. When I was ordained, it was there. In the last 25 years, I have stood in that pulpit dozens of times, but that Sunday it seemed like I was looking out over a sea of unfamiliar faces. It was so startling that I paused in my remarks to note it.
In my position, I am in a lot of unfamiliar churches in front of a lot of unfamiliar faces almost weekly. While there are many people I know by name across Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery, even approaching five years in this role, there is still an unfamiliarity with the faces I see only occasionally. First-Sapulpa was different. It was familiar. It was a second home. And while it was a little unmooring for me, I celebrated that moment with the congregation. New members and new visitors have begun a transformation in that place.
I imagine many of you have had a similar experience in your church in recent years. This sense of “unmooring”, of being adrift in an ocean change. Whether it is changing faces, pastors, or programs, the church is different. There are places those changes have been negative, but there are many places where those changes have meant different people, vital programs, and effective mission. While our default may be to deride change or resist it, it can be a cause for celebration.
Another name for this change is renewal. In the short Epistle to Titus in the New Testament, it says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5 NRSVUE) The transformative work of God has not stopped and will not stop. The Holy Spirit is not done with the church - calling the church into God’s good future. Just as we are individually changed and renewed, so is the church.
What will God do next to renew you and renew the Church?
Rev. Tim Blodgett