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A few years ago we did some minor renovations and remodeling in our church building, converting a rather dank closet that was being used as a copy room and an unused fellowship hall stage into more open and functional office space. In the process we also updated some office equipment, consolidated various old furniture, and simply retired other pieces that long since lost their usefulness. A few filing cabinets—one a sturdy Steelcase model—remained that were in pretty good condition but weren’t really needed. Being both a tidy and a frugal sort, not wanting them to take up valuable space but also not wanting to too readily dispense with them, I put them into storage in the church manse’s basement where they have remained until just recently being “adopted out” to someone in need.
Removing the cabinets from storage took a little more work than placing them into it. Here it was necessary to disassemble the drawers, and in so doing, find what in one view might be described as trash that settled at the bottom of the cabinet, but in another, an unintended time capsule! Mind you, it was not that exciting of a time capsule. Some of the better items are pictured above: unused mimeo paper, as well as a used template for a Mother’s Day bulletin insert, a bent metal furniture plate, some old mail. The address label on the mail was of particular interest to me as it had the zip code when the neighbourhood’s mail still went through Brooklyn, a detail that preexisted the 1977 New York City Blackout.
To call these items historic is pushing it. Sure, they’re over forty years old, but perhaps due to my own aging I’d like to consider that not old at all. Still, when reading the psalmist’s words this past Sunday I couldn’t help but think of these items. “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” (Psalm 16:5-6) A goodly heritage? Why is it that these words conjure immediately in my mind this particular snapshot in time collected as refuse in the bottom of an old filing cabinet?
Sure, when the history of the church is written it is often about those apex moments. And also, sometimes those nadir moments too. But life, even the life of faith is more steady, if grueling, than that. Even boring I suppose, although not necessarily boring in a bad way.
Perhaps it is precisely the banality of it all, the mundaneness of the items pictured here and what they represent, of ministry and life where God is experienced and faith is formed and fostered and shared. And maybe because following here between the second and third Sundays of Easter and the intensity of Lent and the exuberance of the Resurrection that we sort of “come down,” again not in a bad way, not a boring way, but in a regular way where regularity can be appreciated with joy. Maybe a goodly heritage is also the simple generative practices of worship and study, fellowship and prayer, service and discipleship in all the normal day in and day out activities of life.
On Easter Sunday our church sanctuary is filled with the colour and perfume of spring flowers: tulips and hyacinths, daffodils and azaleas, and of course Easter Lilies. They are beautiful and add to the joy and celebration of this ultimate of the Lord’s Days, a rightfully high celebration. But by now, the flowers that have been left have all begun to fade. Some need a picking over and may last a wee bit longer but even so, this time for them is done. But not finished. Soon they will be transplanted to the gardens and here they will continue to grow. Bulbs will rest. And hopefully, when spring returns next year, so will their exuberant colours. But in the regular days and weeks and months ahead, they will simply grow. I’d like to think planted with and in a goodly heritage and well attended to by the gardener, they will hopefully flourish.
And so may we.