Seven last words, gasped out with labored breath. Seven sentences spoken before dying. Sometimes too many words can fail to convey a truth worth telling. But here on the cross, each word is profound, each sentence delves deeply into the heart of God and the nature of reality. These words change the way we see God, life, death, and suffering. This Lent, we will spend our weeks at the foot of the cross, listening to Jesus' seven last words.
VPC 2.0 looks at the future of this congregation, endeavoring to listen to God while keeping a steady eye on the changing circumstances of our day. The sermon series title reflects a dual truth. We owe everything to the men and women who have worked and served before us, but we have unique challenges and opportunities ahead of us.
No previous generation in our church faced the collapse of the mainline Protestantism, or a rising tide of aggressive secularism, as we do. Bitter political divisions, cultural revolt and protest, and fierce debates about the past and future of our nation, intensify the claims we make to offer a gospel of life and health and peace. The shape of ministry in the wake of the pandemic is also uncertain.
At the same time, there are great opportunities for teaching, equipping, and outreach through new technologies. There is much to be learned from other communities of faith that are thriving in our city and region. Our new facilities provide a platform for new ventures in faith and the arts, and new strategies for building community and initiating conversation.
Where do you see the opportunities and challenges?
In any renovation project there are phases. Deconstruction first, followed by construction. Removal and tearing down, then addition and building up.
The life of the disciple, and the life of the blessed community of faith, also has these same movements. Critical evaluation and repentance are followed by growth and renewal. An honest look, and full ownership, of our shortcomings, can be followed by fresh development and new virtues.
This season we are studying the Old Testament prophets. God called them to the necessary and difficult task of pointing out the things in Israel’s life that needed to be removed, torn down, and deconstructed. In poetry and prose they identified and called out injustices and hypocrisy and unfaithfulness—but always with the purpose of making possible righteousness, authenticity, and true faithfulness.
It takes courage to look at our individual and corporate areas of struggle and rebellion. But every strong enterprise, whether religious, economic, political, or educational, must do evaluation honestly and well, to avoid stagnation and decline and to achieve potential.