Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is a true story: Death and resurrection

There was once a parish whose worshipers had dwindled to five souls. The bishop came to see them, bringing with him a priest. The job of the priest was to be the closing of that parish.

The bishop told the faithful remnant of five the facts of life. After some silence, one of the five stood up and said, "Well, then. I guess we're dead."

And the bishop smiled.

Do you know why he smiled? He smiled because he knew this truth: There is no resurrection without death. And there can be no resurrection for those who are dead and do not realize it. These five knew they were dead.

The little parish had nothing left to lose. They started to take chances. In their last weeks, the five decided to give themselves away to the neighborhood in which their church stood. They stood out in the cold nights with a meager few bags of groceries and gave them away to anyone who went by. After awhile, they had to build collaborations with neighbors because the number of grocery bags needed to give away were beyond the resources of the five.

By the time the line of those in need of groceries was so long it reached down the block and around the corner, the neighborhood had begun to make common cause with the five, who were no longer five, but more.

The church I serve is not dead, in the sense people mean when they say dead. A way of life is dead. The church of decades ago is dead. Those who remain are healthy and struggling. Having looked death in the eye, they may rise again, and they will rise again, if they will focus on the one true question: What is God doing? And am I willing to follow Christ into that thing God is doing?

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