The gospel good news seems to be overwhelmed by another message these days: The Church is dying.
It is most clearly seen in lower attendance at church. This isn't just the case at my congregation or in the ELCA but across the map in all denominations. I think one factor is that many members are older and are reaching the end of their lives. The Church is dying because the people who make up the Church are dying. New generations simply aren't showing up in the same numbers their parents' or grandparents' generations did.
But we'd be foolish to see death as a bad thing. As we rub ashes on our foreheads and talk about baptism, we seem to be forgetting the one thing our hope is pointing to in this dark season of Lent - Christ's resurrection.
Think again about those ashes. About death and new life in baptism. About the tomb. About resurrection. We die in order to have new life.
Perhaps the new church will not be easily recognized within church walls and lists of members. Perhaps the new church will be so busy working for justice that Sunday mornings no longer look like they do now . Communion will happen around tables at youth hostiles or homeless shelters where it doesn't matter what clothes you wear or how well you can read the bible.
Preaching will happen with our very lives as we live out the gospel in our various vocations and in online chat rooms reaching people who cannot leave their homes because of depression, illness, or disability. Baptism will be celebrated in rivers and streams and lakes and oceans, surrounded by all creation. The gospel will reach places it never could before as it is spoken by pastors and people with dyed hair, tattoos and piercings.
My comfort is found, not in the flames, but in the hope of new life together.