I always loved Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”. That last lovely stanza of promises to keep is very evocative. I was thinking of that when I took this picture. Obviously this was at one time a lovely home and farmstead. What happened? Where do they go and why? What promises did they have to keep and did they?
Up here is the North country we see a lot of these beautiful old places surrounded by woods that are lovely, dark, and deep and yet there is no one there. They get company in the deer hunting season and perhaps someone stores some machinery there for a while but nevertheless they are pretty much abandoned. We are seeing more and more churches that look that way as well. Once and a while we hear of churches that are trying to sell their property. I always wonder if the sign says, “for sale by owner”? That leads to the question who “owns” the church; whose property is it? That leads to another question of “who is in charge here?”
Once we go down these paths we miss the marks of the church and what it is. The church is people who have been “called out” and made holy by the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus.
These Christian, holy people possess the Word of God.
“This is the principal item, and the holiest of holy possessions…” Wherever this word is “preached, believed, professed, and lived,” we should not doubt, said Luther, that the true church is there. If there were only one sign, this would be it.
When people possess the word of God and live in Christ and His gifts there is no question of who is in charge. We submit to one another for Christ’s sake.
They exist to serve their neighbors for Christ’s sake. They have promises to keep and miles to go before they sleep because their whole life is one of service to God and the neighbor.
Some of these churches are closing because of loss of members, bad economies, and bad locations. Some are closing beecause they have had internal strife and stress. Luther had this to say….
“The church is God’s own home and city, the community of Christian, holy people. If the Holy Spirit reigns there, Christ calls it a comforting, sweet, and light burden; if not, it is not only a heavy, severe, and terrible task, but also an impossible one…”
All of this because I stopped and took a picture on a snowy afternoon.