There’s a story in the lore of First Christian Church-Minneapolis that involves one Dr. George Haggard. Dr. Haggard was already pretty advanced in years when the story begins, but his spirit was still young. What was then Portland Avenue Church of Christ (we became First Christian Church-again-in 1955) was thinking about building a new church facility, but there was a bit of hesitancy. You see, these were the days of World War II and with the sting of the Great Depression still present in everyone’s collective memory. And yet, this octogenerian pressed onward stating to the congregation that they must start raising the money for a new building. “We must look to the future,” he said.
“We must look to the future” became the rallying cry for the next decade as the church embarked on a building campaign. By 1955, the dream that started a decade earlier was complete- a gleaming new building for a growing church.
A decade later, you were still hearing the talk about looking towards the future. I chanced upon a newsletter from 1962 that talked about the plans to add on an educational wing. Dr. Haggard had long passed from the scene, but his spirit lived on.
It’s interesting thinking about what the good doctor said; it seemed to fit the mood of the times. He uttered these words during a dark time in American history, and they pointed towards a future hope, which was realized in the 1950s. Progress was the key word in those days and looking towards the future meant things were only going to get better.
Dr. Haggard’s words might be seem odd to those of us here at First these days. We are a smaller church than we were when Dr. Haggard’s dream became reality. As we prepare to move out of the building that was that Dr. Haggard’s dream to our new home at SpringHouse, it doesn’t feel like our future is bright as it is uncertain and scary. When the future is uncertain, it’s quite easy to get trapped in the past- a past when the church hallways were filled with the sounds of laughing children, when the sanctuary was packed with people, when the future wasn’t so scary.
One of the lectionary readings for December 18 is from the seventh chapter of Second Samuel. In it God tells King David through the prophet Nathan that God would establish the Davidic line forever. David’s legacy, a royal lineage, would never end.
But it did end. Centuries later, the Babylonians swept in and defeated Israel. The age of kings was done. When we start reading the gospel of Luke, Israel has a king, but he is basically a governor (a really brutal governor) of Rome.
But it’s also in that first chapter of Luke that we see an angel come to a young girl named Mary. The angel tells her that she will give birth to a son, called Jesus. The Davidic line is restored by the King of Kings. God didn’t not give up on God’s people. God is Emmanuel, always with us.
We, must still look to the future. Maybe it won’t be the future of big buildings and big memberships, but it will be a future where God is present with us, especially when the future seems cloudy. As we move into SpringHouse, let’s remember that God is with us in the future, with us as we work with our partner congregations, with us as celebrate communion and preach the gospel.
We must look to the future, because that’s where God is. And it’s where are to be as well.