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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

Finding Gold in Unlikely Places

Who are you?

What do you want?

Do you have anything worth living for?

These are the questions one character asks another in the 90s sci-fi series Babylon 5 (see below). The asker has caught a dying man in-between states: living and dying. The asker says it’s easy to have something to die for. He suggests that lying down and dying is relatively easy and will happen regardless someday. But today? To live? We must have something to live for. 

Yes, sure, okay, it’s sci-fi. But there’s a pearl of certain wisdom here. The wisdom is not of death, but of living. It’s the wisdom of Jesus living with us and returning from the dead to always live with us. 

Jesus has a reason for living. Us. He lives for us and our relationship with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit - one God. 

Jesus is not pulling a rabbit out of his metaphorical hat and telling us we don’t have to fear death anymore. His life and death and resurrection are far more than that. The resurrection and ascension and our continued life with Jesus are about living. Jesus chose to keep living. Living a new kind of life. One that can be ours. 

We have a choice. We always have. We choose that life. 100% life. Full-throttle life. Eternal life. We make this decision individually and as a Church. We Christians, we as the Church, don’t go around dying all over the place. We don’t annoy and threaten and baffle people because of our deaths. We annoy and threaten and baffle because of our lives. 

Who are we?

What do we want?

Do we have anything worth living for?

These are questions everyone asks themselves, and should, not once but often. Some people look outside themselves for answers. Some people turn up the volume of distractions or addictions to drown out the questions. But ultimately, we must ask ourselves these questions. Seek, baring our inner selves, until we are found by the Divine. 

Struggling mainline churches must do the same. Soon, and often. 

When I preached regularly, I often asked myself and others these very same questions. No, not in so many words. I suggested the questions and then answered them. The answers are the good news of the gospel, and unpacking those answers was the sermon. At least, that’s how I wrote several of my sermons. 

Do you want to know my secret to not giving a pat answer but one that’s useful? Here’s the secret: 

  • Answer the question in every single way you can. 

  • Start with “other people” and “their” terrible answers. 

  • Get out all of the shameful (but partially true) answers first. 

  • Look at the list and realize we have fallen into these unfortunate reasons for why we are here. 

  • Keep listing. Eventually, you will begin writing holy answers. This is the gold we are digging for. 

The last part of the list - the gold we are digging for - is always under a pile of dirt. If we try to avoid digging through the dirt, we will come up with a “godly” list that is saccharin or twee or overly pious. A list that is useless.

This is an excellent spiritual exercise. It requires admitting things about ourselves. Confessing. Releasing. Digging deeper. Finding something of value. Something worth digging for. Something worth living for. Something we couldn’t have seen if we hadn’t done the hard work of digging. 

Who are we?

What do we want?

Do we have anything worth living for?

I’m an exceptionally practical person. You know that about me by now. I’m not interested in “should have” or “could have” or placing blame. I’m far more interested in making sure you can “be church” and then stepping aside to let you do just that. 

So let’s be practical and realistic. I’m looking at the US, and I do not see a way to return to how we “did church” (singing, communion in both kinds, passing of the peace, hugging, large gatherings) for at least another year, probably two. Maybe longer. 

A lot can change, and I hope it does. But I’m realistic. And if things change for the better? I think it will require quite a few changes. It’s best to be prepared for those changes. Asking ourselves difficult questions can help. 

Some people say that the Church is slow to change. I don’t believe that. From what I’ve seen, we’re as adaptable and innovative as school teachers. We find a way. Change frightens us as much as anyone else, but we find a way. Always have, always will. 

Who are we?

What do we want?

Do we have anything worth living for?

You know what I’d love? I’d love to see a vaccine, and every church in the land offer them up to every person free of charge. I’d love that. I’d volunteer to get certified to administer injections. That might require a lot of work and expense on my part. I’d do it anyway. 

Why? But it could be part of who we are. It could be part of what we want. It could be something worth living for. 

Smaller, shrinking, and struggling mainline churches have been asking themselves hard questions for a long time. Here are three:

Who are we?

What do we want?

Do we have anything worth living for?

Ask them of yourself. Ask them within your congregation. List all the terrible responses and get that dirt out of the way. Confess those errors. Admit and release them. Get to the gold. The eternal gold. 

I’m not telling you, “we’ve got this.” I’m telling you, “we’ve got this if we dig for it.” I’m telling you, “here, let me help you dig.” 

Now is the time to dig. 

What gold have you found? Share your discoveries below. 


Photo by MUILLU on Unsplash

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