We saw a newish grave marker there with an image of Yoda, practically "life" size Yoda, on it.
On the way home we drove past a Baptist church that has, for the most part, closed its doors. I used to go there for meetings of an ecumenical board. I liked the administrator a lot. I worked with the pastor to try and help keep the Protestant chaplaincy board going. The church is right down the street from my first call, Small Church, a church I left because they had no endowment to draw down the way the Baptist church would do for him.
He is gone now. The church looks abandoned. I found their blog and learned they will have a prayer service soon and are planning an Easter service. But they admit that they don't know where they're going, if anywhere.
Are those Baptists now in exile? How will they sing the Lord's song?
I don't know.
I'm not sure how solid the UCC churches in my small city are. I mean, I have some suspicions and a modest amount of information, but no real clear sense. I'm not reading the financials, even for the one where I hold membership. I just know there are difficulties all around. Four UCC churches, do we really need them?
The Baptist church in such difficulties stood up for the most liberal Baptist church in the area when their Association wanted to boot them for being open to LGBT people. The Baptist church in difficulties threatened to leave if Most Liberal Church lost standing. They took a congregational vote to stand with their brothers and sisters in Christ. I thought that was pretty awesome. Baptists all used to be about local autonomy, and I am one of theirs, originally. They stood up for a principle.
And this is their "reward," running out of money, closing their doors, mostly.
It might be the tendency of someone on the other side of that issue to make the case that they are being punished, that God is letting this happen because of their stance, some crap like that. There were people who felt that way about the Galileans and the people at Siloam, too.
But the truth is we live in a world where the religious symbol on a grave marker is Yoda, where the hot topic is Chat Roulette, where things are both getting better and getting worse at a pace so frenzied it's hard to know where to look next.
Jesus gives us a fig tree to ponder. He slows us way down, has us stop thinking about the headlines or the rumors and asks us to consider something that seems mysterious, puzzling, even pointless–a fig tree that is not producing. I've preached that story twice, or rather I mined the first sermon to get the second after spending the week ill with the flu. But I remember doing the homework to try and understand the parable, to get clear about what in the world Jesus might be getting at. Oh, I'm guessing we are the non-producing trees. That seems apt enough. We're disappointing by our very nature, to ourselves and others.
Do we have another year, to spread manure around, to try and grow something nourishing, something that makes people want to come near and experience us?
It's on my mind tonight.
***This is not the Yoda stone we saw. I would have taken a picture, but since the family had left Valentine's tributes, it felt intrusive. This Yoda was on the Internet already.