TODAY AS I TYPE, we’re having our second quasi-snow storm of the season here in Winnipeg – my apologies to the U.S. northeast and midwest and Canadian southeast that are digging out of something  like their fifteenth REAL snow storm … of the month!

We’ve gotten a bunch of snow prior to this, for sure – considerably more, in fact, than is normal. But to this point, our snow has come in drib-and-drab-5cm-chunks at a time, rather than the frozen deluges that have befallen our North American compatriots to the east and south.

     (The folks up here [officially] measure snowfall in centimeters and rain in milimeters, rather than in inches, feet, and fractions of inches and feet.)

This means, of course, that I generally have no idea how much of what we are getting.

Occasionally, if compelled to do so, I force myself to do a mental metric-to-English conversion when weather happens, or I see a speed limit sign, or I see “Kenora, 124 kms” on Highway One.

The funny thing is that most people over the age of 40 still speak in inches, feet, fractions of inches and feet, and miles – or some confusing combination of metric-English-double-speak!

But I digress, again …

Before and as I drove to the office this morning, the snow was falling at a rate of about 15cm an hour (about 6 inches an hour for the metrically impaired), and visibility was about half a kilometer (about a third of a mile). During my drive, which I enjoyed immensely, I thought of something that I heard over the radio during our first winter here in Winnipeg back in 2007-2008, which was this:

     “You can drive fast on roads and streets covered in ice and snow. You can turn on ice and snow. You can apply the brakes on ice and snow. And you might – might! – even get away with doing two of the three on ice and snow, provided there are no other vehicles on the road and no obstacles – such as lightposts – alongside. But what you may not do, under any circumstance, is simultaneously drive fast, AND turn, and AND stop on roads covered by ice and snow! And we seem to need relearning of this basic lesson every winter.

I knew this already, having grown up in north-central Indiana, where we regularly received the “lake-effects snow” from Lake Michigan. I began learning to drive in my dad’s Ford pick-up truck, just as soon as I could manage to reach the pedals with my tippy-toes and achieve the requisite coordination of clutch and 3-speed-on-the-column manual transmission, while peering with glee over the dashboard and steering what seemed to me at the time a HUGE steering-wheel.

There were few things I enjoyed more during our many snowy Indiana winters than careening down our 200-yard-long drive in my dad’s pick-up (and later in my 1966 red Chevy Impala), plowing through feet of snow, literally, and learning to keep the vehicle going forward and relatively straight, while it was being buffeted and bounced from (and through) snow drift to snow drift, until I reached, in a glorious cloud of snow and steam, the gravel road on which we lived.

If the the road had been plowed, then I would normally stop to enjoy the thrill of yet another victory of man-boy over nature. But if not, I would make the right turn out of our lane on the fly, onto the road (westward), and continue my frenetic flight to town, or wherever I was going.

That is, unless I got stuck, which meant that I would have to make the laborious walk, trudging back through the same feet of snow to the barn, to fire up the Massey-Ferguson tractor to pull myself out of the snowbank.

But that’s another story entirely, and honestly, didn’t happen all that often ….

Because my brain is – you know – abnormal, I took a quantum jump, as I was driving my drive and thinking my thoughts this morning, from the materially hazardous driving that I was doing on the streets of Winnipeg (and enjoy just a bit too much, I admit) to the metaphorically hazardous driving that I do in ministry leadership (and enjoy just a bit too little, I confess).

To paraphrase the sage advice about the kind of driving one does on roads and streets covered in ice and snow, I have discovered the following about the life-cycle, and mood, of a local church:

     We can move boldly forward into the future with Jesus. We can make lesser but more palatable (less threatening) adjustments along our journey of faith. We can remain where we have beeen, preferring some by-gone day, hoping to recreate it. And we might – might! – even get away with doing two of the three, assuming that Jesus give us the grace to navigate such a hazardous path. But what we may not do, under any circumstance, is simultaneously move boldly forward with Jesus, AND make lesser adjustments, AND remain where we have been, preferring a by-gone day. It’s simply NOT POSSIBLE to do all three.

We need to choose – at every single point along our faith journey, which sort of followers of Jesus we will be, and what sort of churches of the Lord Jesus Christ we will be.

In the ninth chapter of his gospel, Doctor Luke records for us some eerily appropriate words of Jesus. And though His words seem to be applied specifically to individuals, I am becoming more and more convinced that they apply – equally clearly and equally compellingly – to whole churches as well. Here is Luke’s narrative and Jesus’s words, according to Luke 9:57-62:

     “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ To another He said, ‘Follow Me!’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow You, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God!‘”

God’s grace and peace from me and mine to you and yours,

Pastor Mark


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