i still have not figured this out completely, but here are some thoughts:
a) the lutheran church in latvia has reached a very unstable point in its development – a point of breaking, even. it reminds me of a willow with a lot of rotten wood, and very few living strands that ensure the flow of water and life to the little branches and the green leaves.
b) there is hardly any way to make an old rotten tree or system new again. in gardening, this would be the case when the living parts are cut off and transplanted to a new place, to make new roots and to grow healthy and strong.
somehow, this piece of John comes to mind here:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. –
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” – (John 15:1-8 NLT)
i have never had a grape vine, but i know what happens to other fruit-bearing trees and plants. unless they are renewed and pruned and such, they stop being fruit-bearing plants.
c) what could bring renewal and this new pruning, new life to this church? christ, and christ alone. a surge of faith and trust in him. some refusal to spend energy and resources on empty shells, appearances and unexplained rituals, replacing them with working with people and for people in the building of the kingdom of god. less formal prayer meetings and less arrogant worship services (not that the order of worship is to blame here, no – it is the attitudes with which the order of worship service are implemented and carried out). developing living relationships based on shared knowledge of the scripture, church history and life experiences.
the church has many spiritual riches to share, in knowledge and practice, but what i see going on, from year onto year, are two things – (1)people leaving the church because they cannot find a way of feeling/expressing their understanding of the relationship with god, and (2)people clinging to the practices that they have experienced way back when they entered the church, and actively opposing any sort of change in minor ritual events, like the music or liturgical dress or something.
the (2) is not as innocent as it sounds, because when people put the minor things in the centre, the major things that should be there are marginalised, and there is less and less time for them. this results in heated discussions of how to raise funds to repair the building of the church, instead of heated discussions about how to bring people to christ and salvation. yet the irony of this is, that fixing an empty building will neither bring people to greater knowledge of god, nor will it build the kingdom of god, which is the task of the church, any church, in this rotten world.
d) what remains then? christ jesus. the god who came to the rotten world and replanted the people to grow into spirituality and knowledge of god. the god who sat next to his disciples and taught them by being there, by building relationships, by teaching them to pray and care for each other. this sort of church does not need a huge dark building and complex, sacred mysteries to be. this sort of church can live the mystery which is the life in christ and the pilgrimage to heaven. a church made of ‘living stones’, as Peter puts it. a church made of us, not of bricks and slate.
this hymn is for those who are, like me, tired of the collapsing system, and looking up in despair at the only one who can change things.