I took two pictures this week of signs hanging at the Mount Vernon Square / Convention Center Metro stop. One of the signs was hung in late November advertising "97 & 1 Fun Holiday Things to Do," and the other sign was hung in early January, advertising the Washington Auto Show which was held at the Convention Center January 24 - 28, 2007.
The signs are out of date. They are advertisements for things that are no longer relevant -- things that happened in the past. Still, no one has taken the time to take the signs down. Someone put a "wet floor" post in front of one of the signs this week while another person empties the trash near the other sign throughout the week, but no one has taken the time to remove the signs. The banner and the sign still hang for all to see -- while providing absolutely no helpful guidance or assistance to anyone passing by in the second week of March.
The signs at the Metro have made me think a lot about the church. I know that there are many physical signs in my church's building that point to things that are no longer part of our offerings or activities. One sign outlines the location of several different "departments" at the church that are no longer in existence while also including the Carpenter's Shop, the Sunday School Superintendent's Office, and a dozen or so different Sunday School classes. Times have changed at the church since these signs were installed. These signs will soon come down as part of the renovation -- though no one has taken the time to update them in recent years.
But there are many other things at our churches that are either no longer relevant or out of date. Our churches have a hard time adjusting -- of letting go of things that were helpful and relevant in the past but no longer work today. We continue to do exactly what we have always done, expecting different results in turn (which is the definition of insanity!).
We are in the process of letting go of many things at Mount Vernon Place -- not exactly because we have wanted to, but because a building project has forced us to. In addition to letting go of two buildings about to be demolished and the rest of our property for at least a year, we have let go of some of our staff positions, some of our Sunday school classes, some of our different "ministries" and some traditions. What is happening as we let go, however, is new life is emerging. New things are emerging that make sense for today -- for 2007 -- for the time in which people are moving in all around us -- the time in which we sit at the edge of one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city.
It is not easy to take down the old. It is easier to let old things remain, especially when we have nothing to take their place and don't like looking at empty space. If someone takes the time to remove the signs at the Metro, then another company or organization can imagine the possibility of their sign -- their advertisement -- in its place. The same is true with the church. It is only after we let go of some of the past that we can envision the future.
As we proceed with our journey through Lent, may we continue to look for the dead, out of date places in our lives -- the scabs of the past. May we continue to let go of the old so that something new may emerge. The process of taking down the old is not always easy, and it sometimes brings more scorn than encouragement. Still, the old, the dead, and the decayed must come down in order for something new and living to emerge.