Dear Risen Lord disciples:
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
So what does it mean to be Easter people? Last Sunday put before us the image of Christ the vine and we the branches that are alive in each other. Graced with new life by our Risen Lord, nurtured by the Spirit, we are sent out to bear fruit for the life of the world. So what might that look like for Risen Lord, in these days gradually emerging in hope and expectation into a post-pandemic world? Much is being written these days by church thinkers who are challenging us to consider that merely wishing to “go back to normal” would be indeed going back…that is to say, stepping backwards in a negative way.
I had a humbling conversation last week with an immigrant to our country who helped me think about this question. My friend is an ethnic Chin Christian from Myanmar, the troubled country in southeast Asia where Christianity is and has always been an overwhelming minority to majority Buddhists and larger minority Muslims. For decades, no matter the political party or religion (or atheism) of Myanmar’s strong-armed leaders or dictators, these fellow Christians have endured not only economic oppression and social discrimination, but unspeakably violent, horrific and deadly persecution. Their faithfulness to Christ and dedicated discipleship sustained them in those days and continues unabated as they make a new home in this country, many of them on the south side of Indianapolis. We hosted a congregation at Resurrection for several years until they found a facility of their own, and I cannot tell you how often I was humbled by their example.
The upshot of the conversation with my friend could be summed up in the phrase “contributor vs. consumer.” He was worried about American Christians emerging from the pandemic whose consumer mindsets negatively affect their attitudes to the church. Coming from a tradition where each member is heavily involved in mission and ministry, where tithing is a starting point, and where lay pastors are the norm, he criticized what he sees in America as an over-emphasis on the Pastor and Sunday morning worship alone as defining what it means to be a church member. He is hopeful, however, that the pandemic may have been a healthy corrective, creating a desire for a deeper sense of daily discipleship.
I think my immigrant friend has wisdom to share, a perspective that perhaps would be a healthy mix into the rightful excitement of a newly re-opening Risen Lord in the process of seeking new pastoral leadership, even if only interim. You have already learned the blessing of significant involvement from a larger percentage of the congregation, the importance of widespread and consistent financial support, and the inspiration of fellow members witnessing to their faith in their own words. Seems to me you already have a head start.
A joyful Eastertide to you – be well, friends. You are loved.
Pr. Dave Schreiber