16 November 2013

For Everything a Season

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Lexington Theological Seminary said goodbye to her 631 S. Limestone home yesterday, the place we've lived and moved and had our being for 63 years.  Wearing the robe of a pastor and the hood of an academic, I worshiped the God who has been with us in every stage of this journey.  For nearly 150 years.  In multiple campus homes.  And now in churches and homes across the world.  The move to a new address is a move in the same way a family experiences a move.

This is our first house.
This is the house where we brought our children home.
This is the house where we first met our grandchildren.

But the walls don't hold the memories; our hearts and minds do.

I didn't expect to be moved by yesterday's service.
This isn't my alma mater.
I've only worked here a few years.
Students have never roamed these halls daily for me.
I've never collaborated on a project in the library.
I've never had a life-changing holy moment in worship here.

I love Lexington, but it's not the only home I've known like it is for some.  For most of the service I was a compassionate observer for those who will mourn the loss of this physical sacred space.

And then it happened.

Right in the middle of the last hymn to be sung in Sanders Chapel, the organ stopped suddenly. 

It just quit.

The congregation sang,
Lord you call us to your service: "In my name baptize and teach."
That the world may trust your promise, life abundant meant for each,
(this is where it quit)
give us all new fervor, draw us closer in community.
With the Spirit's gifts empower us for the work of ministry.

And the gathered body kept singing.

Lord, you show us love's true measure; "Father what they do forgive."
Yet we hoard as private treasure all that you so freely give.
May your care and mercy lead us to a just society.
With the Spirit's gifts empower us for the work of ministry.

Lord, you bless with words assuring: "I am with you to the end."
Faith and hope and love restoring, may we serve as you intend
and, amid the cares that claim us, hold in mind eternity.
With the Spirit's gifts empower us for the work of ministry."

It was as if the organ was the literal instrument of God at the moment - a reminder that God had provided this treasured place and God will be with us to the very end, amid the aching of our hearts and the fear of the future.

The organ at 631 has served it's time.
The walls have been the safe haven for study, prayer, worship, and love.
The grounds and apartments and tables have served us well.

But God does not abide at 631.
Nor does LTS.

Lexington Theological Seminary is alive and well in Lexington.
And in Iowa.
And in Florida.
And Brooklyn.
And Israel.

The classrooms have gotten bigger than Dr. Bell could ever have imagined in his days as President of our beloved institution.

As he spoke yesterday, he reminded us that we have always been a people on the move and that God has created sacred space in every place we've been.  God will be just as present in our new home as God has been in this one.

When the body of students gathers for worship in our new home, there will not be an organ.

But there will be a Tom Teater.
And a President Gillett.
And a Dr. Askew with her gorgeous violin.
And a communion table.
And a spoken word.
And a family of prayer, worship and study that is the family of Lexington Theological Seminary.

Buildings don't last forever and the campus at 631 has served its time.
For everything there is a season.
This is a time to plant anew.
For the work of ministry.

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