Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Learning from Spawning Salmon

I just got back from a trip to visit our churches in Southeast Alaska. What a great experience it was to connect with folks from the UMC of Sitka, First UMC of Ketchikan, and Juneau churches: Aldersgate UMC, Douglas Community UMC and Northern Light United Church (Methodist-Presbyterian). My heart has been warmed to hear and witness the wonderful things God is doing in and through these churches as they engage their mission field for Christ! I am inspired by the dreams and visions they have to change the world starting with their communities. I am encouraged by their sense of hope in the midst of difficulties that each of their faith communities is facing. I am humbled by and truly grateful for the radical hospitality shown to me in all of these places.

The trip was also filled with deep lessons for life and ministry. I will be writing about these in the next couple of blog posts. Let me start with this one today:

When I was in Sitka, Pastor Ferdie Llenado and two of his sons brought me to a creek where salmon were spawning. I had never seen salmon spawning before so this was a treat for me and I made sure to capture it on video. And then the reality struck me: What a powerful metaphor for what we are called to do and be as a church!

In order to spawn, thousands of adult salmon need to swim upstream to be able to deposit their eggs where they would be safe. This is an older generation of salmon willing to swim against the current (I'm assuming it is easier to swim with the current than it is against it!) just to make sure that the next generation would be safe.

And then it gets more powerful. After they lay their eggs in the gravel of the creek bed, these older salmon die. In the video you will see grayish, decomposing carcasses. How I wish there was a way to capture the stench on video to make the experience more complete for you. With the smell and the visual, it hit me that these "salmon of today" were willing to make the long, hard journey upstream, knowing that it would lead to their death, because they wanted to make sure that their species would survive, thrive and continue playing their role in the continued balance of the Eco-system.

What are the ways that God is calling us "salmon of today" to swim upstream, against the normal current, the normal ways of doing church that we've gotten used to, in order for a new generation of Christians to not only survive but thrive? What are the ways that God is calling us to "die to ourselves" so that new life can happen in our churches and in our denomination? Can we be selfless, like these spawning salmon, not thinking of themselves, but of those coming after them and ultimately the mission of their species? Are we willing to put to death practices and structures that are no longer relevant, even if we love them so much and they are our comfort zones? Are we willing to be uncomfortable, to be inconvenienced, to exert the extra effort to swim upstream, to live with the stench of decay for a while, in order to make more disciples of Jesus Christ who would continue in our mission of transforming the world?

Shall we swim upstream together?

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