March 16th, 2016

hound of heaven

A post about Nothing

They say you can't beat Something with Nothing. After forty years of leadership in the Church, I fain would disagree. Nothing beats Something all the time.

For there are many situations in which the best efforts of the congregation or conference result in a big nothingburger. No results, or at least, none worth talking about. Yeah, we did X, but in the meanwhile, the ever-creeping years render what little we have done irrelevant as the congregation ages in place and our best leaders have to give up leading, or move away, or die. It gets harder and harder to get new leaders to take their places, too.

Many congregations receive no new members, or more particularly, see no new professions of faith, in a given year. We have fewer members this year than last, or fewer attending worship, but we congratulate ourselves that we've almost slowed the rate of decline! Meanwhile, many congregations also have fewer Sunday School classes or children's programs this year than last, or there are fewer children in them. It gets harder to staff committees, and pull off annual hoop-de-dos like the Women's Bazaar, and we make more and more compromises in what we demand of ourselves. A weeklong VBS becomes a weekend program the next year becomes a single day extravaganza the year after that becomes no VBS at all this year. "Hey, people are busy," they say, and keep on looking for the next easy program that promises to fix their situation. Well, the easiest program to do is no program at all, and we're good at that. So, what did we accomplish this year for the cause of God and Man? Not much.

And we're willing to defend the Nothing we know, rather than embrace the Something that we are offered. Perhaps that Something is too scary, or maybe it seems unreal, or maybe it's just the person who's offering it (someone we resent or distrust). But lots of groups of all sorts, in all kinds of endeavors, vote for Nothing over Something year after year. They cling to it, declare their faith in it, even fight with their friends who would persuade them that Nothing isn't worth investing in any longer.

It's very sad, especially when you love those you see doing it. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," cried out Jesus on the day of his entry into the city, "How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." And we wonder how the same people who flung their cloaks in the road for Jesus to ride over as he entered the city could cry, "Give us Barabbas!" and send that same Jesus to the cross just five days later.