Wednesday, March 21, 2007


      Disappointment is a strange thing. Our church is seven years old and seeking to build a building (currently we meet in the local middle school) and recently had some major setbacks with the town. We have a contract on a piece of land, but needed to get a zoning variance from the town to put a church there since it is zoned “office/laboratory”. We pursued both a variance to allow us to put a church in this specific location and a zoning law change that would let a church be a permitted use in that zone. A couple of weeks ago, the zoning board denied the variance and last night the planning board voted not to recommend the ordinance change to the town. I was at the planning board meeting last night and was surprised at the opposition to our proposal. The board itself did not seem overly opposed to it, but there was some very vocal opposition about putting a church on that particular property from several members of the community. In retrospect, none of their arguments were very good and all very site specific (traffic concerns, environmental concerns, obscuring the scenic view of the neighbors). All of these concerns would be things that would have to be addressed much later in the process by our church anyway and a church certainly wouldn’t be any worse (and in many cases better) than an office building or a laboratory of a similar size. In any event, I think what the board found persuasive (aside from the fact that there was loud opposition) was that there is a traffic problem in the area that is currently being investigated and that investigation might shed further light on the development potential of that area.

      I was pretty disappointed. I wish I had had more presence of mind to say the things that I think now and to clarify misconceptions about the size of the church. I wish someone else had spoken in favor of our church (a couple did, but certainly not as vehemently or eloquently as the opposition). I wish someone could have given our reasoning as persuasively as I can now that I have time to think about it. I think disappointment is in large part also a sense of betrayal. I feel betrayed by myself because I wasn’t able to stand before the board and clarify our arguments. I feel betrayed by the town for opposing it. I feel betrayed by the planning board for not seeing through their poor arguments. I feel betrayed by our church and pastor for not representing our church better and for getting our hopes up about this piece of property. I feel betrayed by God for the very same reasons.

      Ay, there’s the rub, as Hamlet (3:1:73) would say. I feel as if our church has a right to that property; as if I had the right to hope. A moment’s thought would render absurd the idea that I might have any right to even suggest to God how to do his job (even something as small as who should get a little plot of land in New England). As for the right to hope, “I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in” (Ibid. 134). Property and hope are not rights; they are gifts. This whole world was created through Christ that He might give it to us as a wedding present, not because it was ours by right. On top of that, Jesus died so that He could purchase hope for us to add to that already abundant gift. I guess that is something that we need to be reminded of now and again.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Famine, Persecution, and the Like

      I know it's been a while since my first and only post, but life is busy, especially while planning a wedding. In any event, I thought I'd put up a quick post on this chilly New England night. Every other Wednesday morning I meet with some guys from my church to pray. And before we prayed, we talked about the end of Romans 8, where Paul about writes tribulation, persecution, famine, and sword. These were probably pertinent issues for the church in Rome to which Paul was writing and that seems a little foreign to us in our safe little New England world. Yet we know that there are still those in the world for whom those issues are very much a reality on a daily basis. When we started praying, we prayed for those Christians and other people who find themselves in places where they have to deal with hunger, war, or persecution. And what I want to encourage you to do, is to pray for the church in such places and for those people. A couple of places that spring to mind quickly are Iraq and Sudan.

      There is something simultaneously terrible and divine in hunger, pain, and persecution. It is terrible for the obvious reason that it is hurtful, damaging, and evil. It is divine because God himself subjected himself to it and so clothed that evil with grace incomprehensible. Now He invites his church to participate in the divine activities of being hungry and yet fighting against hunger, of battling with weapons and yet laying aside differences, of being persecuted and yet opposing persecution. God took on pain, hunger, and persecution so that even though these things are evil, they now have divine significance. If Jesus Christ is found in these things, then there really is no separating us from Him.