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Monday, November 17, 2014

Pastorgraphs: “Parable: The Unwanted Muscle Car”

E-Vangel Newsletter
November 17, 2014

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center

“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205
Pastorgraphs: “Parable: The Unwanted Muscle Car”

Patrick Scriven wrote an insightful modern parable in his “After.Church” blog. Tempted to print it in its entirety as today’s Pastorgraph, something I rarely do, I am instead sharing portions of it with you and adding a few observations of my own.

In short, Patrick paints the picture of a father who owns an old muscle car on which he spends his time, treasure and TLC. “The father loves this car and has cherished memories of the countless miles driven on its tires and valued relationships nurtured under its roof.”

His daughter, now approaching her 16th birthday, has spent many quality hours with her father tinkering on the old car. She “remembers the many weekends she would find him working to restore and care for this car. It was clear to [her] that he loved it. Whenever something went wrong with the car, her father would have to search far and wide to find the right parts to fix it. As he did so, they would spend hours talking about cars. So much so that she developed her own love of them.”

The daughter began to get hints that for her 16th birthday, she would receive a gift “too large to fit in her room”. Excitement began to build that she was going to receive her own car, just in time for her driving license.

Her birthday arrived, and she received a very small gift wrapped box. However, inside were the keys to her father’s old beloved car. “…the surprise on her face was quickly mixed with visible disappointment. You see, in addition to being a lover of cars, [she] was also a burgeoning environmentalist. And while she had always found a way to accept her father’s love for his classic muscle car; how could she be found driving such a vehicle, even one as beautiful as this?”

Scriven goes on to explain the parable. The old car the father loved is like the church. Many parents think they will be able to pass their church (and their faith) on to their children who will appreciate it, love it, and work on it just as they did. But as I have said many times, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren, only children.” 

Every generation since Peter and Paul has faced the same challenge. We cannot live vicariously through the faith of our fathers and mothers. As important as their faith may be in our faith formation, we must find our own faith and personal relationship with God. We love our parents’ church, but we must build upon it and make the church our own.

Scriven explains: “I can relate to both the father and the daughter in this parable of the church. Like the daughter, I’ve often felt that the car (church) didn’t fully honor my values and I have serious concerns about its fuel efficiency in the task of transforming the world for the better. On more than one occasion, I’ve driven past the metaphorical dealership of other churches and benevolent organizations, looking lustfully at the Tesla Model S that promises to fulfill the aspirations of my heart.”

“But I can also resonate with the pain of the father. For those of us who love the church, this rejection of our gift can be very personal. It can feel like the daughter lacks the appropriate gratitude for the gift we offer. After all, we didn’t get the chance to reject the imperfect church we received from our parents; taking it on was as much an obligation as it was a birthright. And while we inherited so much of what we now want to pass down, we’ve also put a lot of ourselves into it. Unfortunately, it is too easy to perceive their yearning for something else as an outright rejection of who we are.”

Scriven concluded, “The daughter shared her father’s love for cars. She was even willing to honor her father’s continued affection for his gas-guzzling muscle car despite her own environmentalist values. But the road she envisioned for herself was a different one spent in a better car, at least when understood through the lens of her values.”

Pastor Donald Owens of Exodus Church was the guest preacher at Christ Chapel yesterday. His sermon title was “The Challenge of Change”. It focused on the changes Exodus, Christ Chapel, the Hispanic and Haitian Methodist congregations are going through in forming the new church being handed down to a new generation. The new church has great opportunities and challenges. It also has a precious heritage with stories of hundreds, no thousands, who have come to know the Lord and serve Him from the spiritual base of 33rd and Meade.

Dr. Owens reminded us, “Looking in the rear view mirror will prevent us from reaching the new heights God has in store for us.” That doesn’t mean we forget or do not appreciate the blood, sweat, toil and treasure our mothers and fathers put into the church they passed down to us. Like the daughter in the parable, we want to make the church our very own, and even better than before. 

That neither dishonors nor disrespects their labors. From their vantage in the Great Cloud of Witnesses, they are cheering us on.

In Christ’s Service,
Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
“If we are careless about our assumptions around why young people leave the church, we risk asserting things about the church we probably don’t intend. Our despair can lead us to cling to our traditions and pray for the day when the young will understand these things we (not God) have defined as church. Or our disappointment, motivated by a greater love, can move us toward a new future which finds common root on a deeper level.”
~ Patrick Scriven, After.Church Blog 

Photo credit: Fotolia all royalties paid.

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