Some Pain in Spain

June 15, 2017

Three weeks ago, my family and I traveled to Spain. The highlight was—by far—meeting up with our daughter who had been living and studying there since the beginning of the year. There were some other awesome things about this trip, too. We enjoyed great cuisine, culture, hikes, even some time by the sea. We walked through beautiful churches, cathedrals and ancient holy places.

One particular evening, I walked a few miles outside of the city of Oviedo in Northern Spain to look at some churches that date back to 800s. Not the 1800s—the 800s! Humbling to be reminded how young our country and culture really are.

My intrigue and fascination with these ancient places of worship was later matched by a blanket of sadness. It dawned on me at the end of our week in Spain that we had seen any number of incredible Christian monuments but had not actually conversed with anyone who was an active follower of Jesus. It was as if we had encountered the shell of a creature that no longer lived there—thus, the sadness.

This is not meant as a criticism of Spanish culture. The demise of a vibrant spirituality there owes in large part to decades of collusion between so-called Christians and the heavy hand of the Franco dictatorship. Whatever flame of faith was burning earlier in the 20th century was seriously dampened through those difficult years.

What struck me was how faith is a thing that can only be passed on face to face, life to life, shoulder to shoulder. Faith is not a thing best shared through magnificent memorials and grand building projects. We need our buildings, certainly, and the more beautiful, functional and architecturally refined, the better, I say. But, that is not where the real life is. Our buildings, structures and programs are only the container or shell wherein the real creature resides.

In the last two weeks at Elmhurst CRC, there have been many signs of vibrant spiritual life. Last week, 100 preschoolers were here for Little Lambs Camp. This week, 340 elementary school campers are here for SpringHill DayCamp. Last week in worship we witnessed the Profession of Faith of seven high schoolers along with the Sacrament of Baptism. This weekend 27 high schoolers will leave for a spiritual challenge in the mountains of Colorado. It makes me proud to be part of a community that is so actively involved in passing faith on to the next generation. This is how it’s done: kid by kid, life by life, conversation by conversation, story by story, adventure by adventure, hug by hug.

I loved our time in Spain, but I’m grateful to be back and actively serving in a place where there is so much obvious spiritual life.

If you are a grown-up reading this, I invite you to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to show you the face of a younger person with whom you could share some part of the adventure of faith this week. That is how the spiritual life stays alive through the generations. That is how it’s done.

Peace to you,
Pastor Gregg

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