It wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever, but it certainly wasn’t the best.
About 5 years ago, we decided that instead of cooking the Thanksgiving meal that year we would instead meet the extended family for a Thanksgiving brunch at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The Queen Mary, if you don’t know, is a huge British ocean liner originally built in the 1930’s for making luxury crossings of the North Atlantic. Active even until the 1960’s, the ship was retired and docked in the late 60’s and became a tourist attraction in the following decade. And so, for almost 50 years now the ship has remained in the Long Beach port to serve as a hotel, museum, over-priced shopping center and a restaurant which now serves a large Thanksgiving brunch.
We met there and ate our brunch together, and after the meal we decided we’d walk around the ship for a while to work off the desserts and to see some of the history of the place. But as we walked, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat profoundly empty at the experience because there was something almost mournful about looking at all of the photographs and images taken of when the ship had sailed. A ship is a beautiful thing when you think about it…it moves, travels and sails to places that we could not get otherwise. And best of all- it takes us with it. We rest on board while it shows us the world. But the Queen Mary, where once it had sailed far and wide, now it was only something to visit. This grand ship, built to sail and travel, had been reduced instead to only a stagnant attraction.
In some strange way, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the ship. Who had decided to no longer let it do what it was made to do? A ship was built to move…so let it!
This week as I read the Scripture passage for Sunday from the Book of Acts it dawned on me that the church is much like a ship. Just as a ship is built to move, venture forward and take us with it, I believe the church was created for the same reasons. (Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the symbol of the boat was one of the earliest symbols for the church.) In not only this week’s passage, but in the entire book of Acts which tells the story of the early church, it is a constant and consistent story of movement forward. The church goes and is never stagnant. Over and over in the stories the dynamic becomes clear…people do not come to the church, but the church goes to them. It looks for where people are in need, and then it goes to them.
You know as a church I believe we are preparing to set sail and to move forward. We have gathered and our young church has been built, but we are made like a ship. We are a church and that means that we are made to move…to sail…to not wait for people in need, but to find them where they are. We are going to do what the Queen Mary (sadly) does not get to do, because we are ready to sail. And now the time is right for us to decide where we are going to be active in our neighborhood so that we can venture to the needs we will meet and the people who we will help.
I want you to help us do this, and here is how. The weekend of June 10th and 11th, we are going away to Camp Cedar Glen (near Julian) for a two-day retreat to pray, talk, learn and decide what our mission in Normal Heights looks like. We are going to be led on the retreat by Rev. Brian Parcel, a fellow Methodist pastor, to decide where we are going to be the church in the community. Watch for more information about this weekend and please mark it in your calendars so that you can be there. It will begin Friday evening with dinner and then conclude on Saturday afternoon, and everyone can go. There will even be childcare and special activities planned for the kids!
I am excited. We are ready to set sail and to claim who we are as a church. I’ll see you on Sunday and at the retreat.