Note: I wrote this just before our church’s “For Sale” sign went up last fall. This coming Sunday April 23, we have a congregational vote to sell our property and to purchase a new property! It’s happening! Pray with us for new life to come. -Pastor Dawn
“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has passed; the new has come!” -2 Corinthians 5:17
This week marks 2 years since we began our tenure as pastors of the 110-year-old First Christian Church of Odessa, Texas. That’s got me thinking about our move here.
We loved our life in the hills and trees amongst our good Midwestern neighbors. We served a congregation that was as surely knitted to our hearts after a decade of partnership as our own skin was on our bones. But something, Someone?, called to us. So we tried to listen. Did we believe in the resurrection, for ourselves, and for this church that had seen brighter days now wanting us to come lead them into the future? We thought and prayed until we could say “JUMP.” Then we called the search committee chair and said, “We are coming to Odessa!”
A few days later we met our real estate agent in the front yard of our beloved home, the home I lived in longer than any other in my life. She brought the sign that said our house was “FOR SALE.” She tapped it right into the yard with her perky hammer like it didn’t matter a whit in the world to her and I cried and cried. Everything seemed exciting and hypothetical until that moment. Now, it felt like the world as I knew it was coming to an end.
We said goodbye to all the familiar places and faces of our everyday lives. Then we said hello to many new, now just as beloved, places and faces in our new home. Two years later, I cannot imagine life without the people of our current church and community. Now life is less hilly and more sunset-y and we love it so. Our old church has a very capable new pastor who is taking them places where they needed to go. Our current congregation is bold in compassion, mature in faith, and striving for the kingdom of God in our midst. I feel more alive in ministry than ever. Turns out there is new life God brings from leaps of faith!
That’s the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17. It says that living our lives in Christ, trusting in Jesus in all things, means saying goodbye to what has been, especially our old selves with our worries and fears. Then, we are made new! We get brought through the birthing waters and are reborn.
Soon, our congregation will experience a “For Sale” sign in its own yard. When this church was planted a century ago, neighborhoods were popping up all around it. But forty years ago, people began to move out of our neighborhood into other places in town. Now hardly anyone lives in our neighborhood. The church discerned that we need to explore relocating where people live to be a more vibrant witness for Jesus in our community.
I’m anticipating that when that sign goes up, there will be tears and fears, like my own when our house’s for sale sign went up, perhaps even more so. I can imagine asking the realtor to pause her hammer, saying something like, “Hold On! Please do this reverently. This place is holy ground! People have been baptized and married and grieved and loved here!” But the sign will go up, and things will begin to change. It will be weird, and wonderful. It will be frightening, and faith-filled. We will let go of something good to receive still more blessings. I trust there will be a day in two years when our congregation looks back from wherever God’s call has led us and we say, “We can’t imagine our life without this new adventure! Thanks be to God! New life can be counted on!”