Growing up as a child, and even into early adulthood, I was blessed with the presence of wonderful grandparents in my life. As I've grown older, and particularly in the last few years, my grandparents have faithfully joined the great cloud of witnesses. In recent months, as we have started the process of rummaging through the antiques and artifacts of their lives, my family has engaged in that ever-so-spiritual journey of transition, grief, and remembering.
As anyone who has taken this journey will know, the process of deciding what to keep, what to throw away, and what to pass on is never as easy as it seems. In families large and small, the journey of discerning which items mean what to whom can be messy, but also honoring. Recently, when going through my grandparents home, I came across several handmade trinkets that my grandmother had made in her kiln, and painted with her own hands. I can remember playing with these same trinkets as a child, or at least ones that looked much like them. For me they were an important reminder of the love and times we shared.
A little later, while rummaging through the shed, I found several old golf clubs that my grandfather had shoved into a box. One of these was an old "pod driver," an early prototype for drivers made of something other than persimmon wood. I can still remember the sound of it when he hit it. Ever the competitor, his friends would joke with him about his "crazy driver," but nevertheless, he kept right on swinging it. Yes, all those times on the golf course I learned deeply from him how to give a joke, and how to take one - how to recognize where true community can be formed in all of God's creation.
A little over a decade ago, Phyllis Tickle wrote the book The Great Emergence. Her sense is that at this point in our modern history, the Church and culture are going through a season of rummaging. In our collective lives, some 500 years after the Reformation, Phyllis believes that we are doing what all cultures have done and continue to do about every 500 years: we reform ourselves through the act of deciding what the Church, our faith, and our society will look like for the next 500. While as a historian Tickle wrote of these things as a matter of fact, I can assure you that her sense of urgency in paying attention to this reality was never lost on many of her students, including me.
Tickle had a hunch that the Church had a limited time in the new millennium to sort out what it was going to keep, what it was going to get rid of, and what it was going to take up newly if we were to remain a force in shaping the age to come. Like all prophets, or maybe like all grievers in families, she knew that allowing the work to linger or not be taken seriously would inhibit the natural and generational process from doing what it was meant to do; namely, empowering a new generation to take ownership of the faith, of the story, by rummaging among the artifacts of what has been, listening to what the Spirit is saying now, and deciding for itself what is important for the age to come.
I wonder: Do you, like Phyllis Tickle, feel the shift that is happening around us? Do you have a sense that things might be changing and that there will be loss, or hope for what is to come? Are there things that you are certain belong in the next iteration of faith, or are there things you hope we can simply put in the garbage bin?
In truth, all of our lives - personal and communal - need seasons of claiming and reclaiming, lamenting and re-purposing, in order for God to continue to set the right priorities in front of us. As people of faith, we can trust, that just like the Church in all ages past, God's Spirit will be right there with us, visioning and calling us into what is to come.