I wrote the following for a summer vespers video.
The spark in his eye had gone out, literally.
Last fall we took our two cats to the vet for a checkup. Pedro, who was 19 at the time, was in good health except he had become blind. Daniel and I were shocked. We had no idea Pedro was losing his sight and he didn’t seem to give any clue.
Just as we got used to Pedro being blind, we started to notice Pedro would act oddly. He would yell for whatever reason. And then there was the pacing. For days on end, he would keep pacing and pacing like a madman. We learned that Pedro now had dementia.
The vet said there was some medicine that might allow him to get sleepy enough to stop the pacing and for the most part that worked. Except when he was in his mind, he ended sleeping a lot. This became a regular cycle- pacing, sleeping, pacing, sleeping. This was Pedro’s life now. That face which was filled with wonder was long gone.
Daniel and I talked about the quality of Pedro’s life or to be brutally honest, lack of quality of life. We finally decided that it was time to put Pedro to sleep. So, on a sunny afternoon in February, we took Pedro down to the Animal Humane Society to be euthanized. It was hard to see him go, but it was also hard to see our beloved Pedro in pain.
Death is not an easy thing to face whether it’s a pet or a parent. It’s also hard to accept the death of dreams or even church buildings.
Our church is in a mad dash to move out of the building we have called home for 25 years to a new location. Wherever we move, we can’t take everything with us. Some items will be sold, given away or thrown in the trash.
Now that’s hard to hear. There are things we view with emotional significance and we are loathed to give them up. It’s not that we love things as much as we are in love with a certain view of the congregation, an image that needs to die if the congregation can live.
The process of leaving this building feels like a death. It feels that way because it is. We are leaving a certain way of being church. Wherever we move will be our church starting over again, or to use the term of geeks everywhere, I hard reset.
Packing up and moving and means saying goodbye. And we don’t really like saying Goodbyes because it means the end of something.
In the 12th chapter of John, some visitors come up to one of the disciples and asked them if they wish to be like Jesus. I don’t know what they had in mind when they said this, but you can it did provoke a response in Jesus. “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Jesus was referring to his coming death and resurrection. Easter was coming, but before that could happen, Jesus had to experience the grief of Good Friday.
In the next few weeks, as we go through old items to determine what to keep and what to throw away, I hope you will allow yourself time to grieve. We are nearing the end of a certain phase of being church and it’s important to take that in. Honor what’s passing even if you weren’t here when the church moved last. Honor past members who moved away or died in the intervening years. Give thanks for the pew bibles and hymnals that people donated. Resurrection is coming in due time, but for now take in this moment of loss and mine what God is telling us in this moment.
If you were a young adult in the 1990s, then you know of the song “Closing Time” by the Minneapolis-based group Semisonic. On the surface, the song is about a bar closing time, but then songwriter and lead singer Dan Wilson utters a phrase that is the hallmark of the song, “Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other’s Beginning’s End.” In a few months we will be in a new location, learning a new way to be church in our changing world. But to get to that point, we have to realize that this new beginning is happening because of the ending of another new beginning from years ago. One of the ways we will say goodbye is through a decommissioning service of the building. I will let you know when that happens, but please attend and join us in saying goodbye, to let this phase of First Christian die.
The new beginning is coming and we give thanks. The old beginning is ending and we give thanks.
Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other’s Beginning’s End.
Goodbye, 650 Wildwood Road. Thank you for your service.