October 11, 2023
Fall is an interesting time of the year. On the one hand, we think of it as the beginning of the end of the year. We are already thinking of how to sum up the year for the annual report and see how we did against what we planned. But on the other hand, it is a beginning. We just had our kick-off of a variety of church life activities and the planning for the new year is gearing up in earnest.
One project in specific is the restoration of our historic steeple. The planning phase is all but over and we are now moving into execution mode and kicking off the fund raising initiatives. And while the steeple restoration is about replacing aging wood, weatherproofing, and assuring structural integrity, I couldn't help but think of it as a metaphor for our spiritual life as well.
As a graduate student many years ago we studied light. In some ways it defies our understanding. So much so, that we must resort to metaphors to describe and predict its behavior. At times we described photons of light as if they were particles, except when we get the wrong answer and then we describe it as a wave, except when it seems to be a bit of both and then we talk about the wave-particle duality.
In our spiritual life, we face a similar situation in trying to describe God. It helps to think of Him as a father at times, except when it is more useful to think of Him as a Son, except when neither seems to apply, and we think of Him as the Holy Spirit. And when He is a bit of all three, we simply call Him the Trinity.
In a similar way, I think our church steeple offers us an interesting way of talking about some aspects of our spiritual life. Our church is old. It has seen storms and sun, and periods of loving care and neglect. As such, we have to examine it from time to time to make sure it is strong enough for the next series of storms. It is such an examination that led us to conclude that it needed some repairs. And interestingly, the work on the steeple began in the basement - on the foundation. We are making sure that the foundation on which everything else is built is solid.
Those of us who have been Christians a long time would do well to do a "walk around" inspection of our faith every so often as well. Examine every aspect and discover all those areas we have not maintained the way we should. Do you pray as often as you used to when it was new? Do you immerse yourself in the Word the way you did when it was fresh and new?
Fall is a good time to stop and take stock. Are you getting a little rusty or complacent in some area? Are God's words fresh on your heart, or are they getting a little faint like our hearing? Perhaps you need a refresher, or new inspiration to rekindle the fires of your spiritual walk with God. Set a new goal to grow in some spiritual area. Perhaps participate in one of the studies that are just getting kicked off - the Pastor's Sunday morning roam through Romans, or the revamped Bible 201, or the discussions in the Men's group or Women's group.
Truth be told, you cannot be fully effective in ministry with "rotten wood" in the foundation of your faith. Our goal as a body is to reach up and out. A firm and healthy foundation is essential.
In our discussions of a Purpose Driven Church we came to conclude that we needed to be more intentional in our outreach. I think our steeple serves as a good metaphor for this purpose of the church. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at paintings and pictures of small New England towns in the country and noticed that what stands out is the church steeple. It is what calls out to the passerby and gives them the first inkling that God is resident within. And it will continue to do that as long as its foundation is solid and healthy.
But I think there is another message in this metaphor. For buried inside the steeple is a hidden gift. You cannot see it from the outside and may never even know it is there, unless it is used. And that is our church bell. When it is silent it does little more than rust and gather dust. When put to use, it calls out to the community around and lets them know that we are alive. Our faith is alive. Our God is alive. Come.
In a similar way, we each have spiritual gifts within. God has given us each gifts and talents -many and varied. Unfortunately they are a little like muscles - they atrophy if they are not developed and used regularly. Like the bell in the steeple, when silent, your gifts will do little more than "rust" and gather "spiritual dust." When put to use, when empowered by God, and released by each of us, they will call out, invite, and minister to the community around us!
Have you identified your unique spiritual gifts? Have you developed them and learned to utilize them in ministry? If not, now is the time. Invite God to open your heart and flow through you to everyone you encounter.
I am told that as our Save Our Steeple campaign gets underway in earnest, we will begin to ring the bell! Whatever else that bell means to you, when you hear it, I pray that this fall, its peals will inspire you to use all of your hidden God-given gifts for God's glory!
Your Brother In Christ,
Please feel free to share this DeacoNote with a friend, or post a related thought in the Comments below.
Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester