Yesterday we went on a picnic with friends from the church. Their two children, Oliver and Mercet, abandoned all thoughts of eating their lunch in preference for the call of the beach. Off they went, running up and down the beach, gathering stuff and making up games. Shortly they became engaged in an elaborate engineering feat. The tide was at its low ebb and they "found" and "island" and decided to stake it out and make it their own empire. Back and forth they ran, gathering sticks to mark out the perimeter, even finding a stick with a flag to post in the center. They did this for over an hour, ultimate naming it the Empire of M & O.
Then, like children, they went off to other things, leaving the outlined empire abandoned. Soon we saw a couple dancing slowly to their own music in the confines of the empire. "Hey, they can't do that!" said Oliver. "It wasn't meant for dancing". And then other beach strollers came upon the "empire" and photographed it and wondered at it. All the while the tide began to rise, creeeping in on the secure island. I asked my friend's daughter if she thought the boundary sticks would survive the tide and be there when the tide went out again. "Oh no" she said, "They'll probably all float away and we'll have to start all over." And with that she went back to more pressing interests.
I could not help reflect on those kids as I downloaded the photos into my computer this morning, a grey and drizzly Monday after a long and energy-taxing Sunday. It's one of those Mondays when pastors wonder about all the energy they invest in the Sunday services and events. How much is like empire building in the sand? How much of it lasts the tides of change and crises? After a week of reflection on the emerging nature of the church at the National Pastors' Conference in San Diego, I think these are important things to consider in these days. The tides are rising, bringing certain change. I really want the church I serve and my ministry to be about that which lasts and endures, that which counts in God's eyes. Sometimes, when I think about all the "comittees" and "boards" I have and am serving on, I wonder how much of it is sand scratching?