Spoiler alert: if you are coming to Foothills for worship tomorrow and you want to be surprised, wait and read this on Monday.
Over six years ago, when i first walked into the sanctuary at Foothills, what i saw with my eye and what i saw with my heart were two different things. My eye saw a space that was much-loved, though cared for with limited resources. Bright (i mean bright!) paint colors that detracted from the beautiful stain glass; old carpet; a communion table and pulpit in synthetic materials that reflected nothing of the soul of the congregation, or of the landscape.
In my mind’s eye, however, I saw these slightly outdated elements as a thick coat of dust, gathering for years over all that might be. Beneath the worn carpet, I could envision a floor that looked like the earth itself; red-brown and rustic. Just behind that plastic-looking table, i could see something handmade from local materials. Beyond the paint, i could see the stunning earth tones of the window, taking us off into the distance and into the foothills that lie (literally) right outside our door.
But more than that, I saw the very heart of God, in the midst of this small and struggling community. I saw people of voice and vision, ready to see past what we had, and become what God wanted us to be. I glimpsed a spirit of hospitality that lacked clarity, but promised a kingdom kind of welcome. I heard a joyful spirit of worship between the lines of music that, some days, was not such a joyful noise. And i don’t throw language like this around very much, but i will say today: I heard, beyond doubt, God’s promise to bless this place, if we would just listen and wait. And wait. And wait some more.
At the time, i was sure if we could just get the dust off–change the paint and the carpet and the aesthetic of the place–we would find beneath the surface all of these things and people and plans that God had for us. But you know, it doesn’t work like that. We didn’t have the resources or the person-power to do all those things at once. Instead, we’ve nipped and tucked and trimmed and trashed, one step at a time, for years. We’ve listened. And we’ve waited. We’ve let some things die. And we’ve waited some more.
Today, as we cleaned up the remains of a productive work day, I caught a stunning glimpse of the holy–the place that I saw, just beneath the surface, so many years ago, has come to life in front of us. Thing is, it has come to life under the hands of many people we didn’t know back then. We’ve been waiting, not for the new floors, or the new table, or the new paint, or even the beautiful new paraments on the wall…we’ve been waiting for them; for our people to find us. For their stories, for their gifts, for the many ways they’ve enriched the life of this community. We are not done changing and growing and working, not by a long shot… But I tell you what, we’ve cleared away all the stuff that was in our way. Now we just wait some more.
In more ways than one, slowly but surely, new life has joined us at the table and cleared the dust off of all that might be. Tomorrow, we’ll gather in a renewed space, at a brand new table, to celebrate the faithfulness of God, and the very goodness of the earth. Here’s a quick picture of the new look…Well, i say it is new. But i’ve seen it before.
If you’re in town, come join us for our “Songs of Thanksgiving” service tomorrow at 10; followed by a pretty epic pot-luck. No paint brush required…
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing, to turn to a wisdom surpassing our own;
the powr’s that oppress us now cease to distress us. O God, be present with us and make your will known.