If you follow college athletics, and college football in particular, you have been intrigued in recent days about schools switching conferences. There was talk for a time of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech leaving the Big 12 Conference and joining the Pac-10 Conference. As it turns out, Texas was just trying to get a better deal from the Big 12, and used the threat of leaving as leverage to do so. In the midst of the frenzy, Nebraska did leave the Big 12 to join the Big 10. The Big 10, which now has 12 member schools instead of 11, will no doubt continue to refer to itself as the Big 10. They seem to think that the historical value of the name is more important than whether or not it provides an accurate description of their conference. Meanwhile, Colorado has left the Big 12 to join the Pac-10. There is no word yet as to whether the Pac-10 will now be the Pac-11 or not.
Those two defections leave the Big 12 with only ten member institutions. Again, there is a bit of an “accuracy in labeling” issue. Can the Big 12 still be the Big 12 if they only have 10 schools? One thing is for sure, they can not be the Big 10; which, while it does have 12 schools, still has prior claim to the Big 10 moniker. So what will the Big 12 do? Rumor has it that there is a possibility that Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University might be invited to join the Big 12. If this were to happen, it would be a reunion of sorts. TCU and SMU used to play ball with many current members of the Big 12 in what used to the Southwest Conference before it was dissolved some 17 years ago. “The wheel has come full circle. . .”
Years ago, when the fundamentalist began their takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, T. C. Pickney was a leader in that effort. Before they gained control of the Southern Baptist Convention, many of them were not eager to support the mission efforts of the convention. Moderates tried unsuccessfully to make support of the Cooperative Program a litmus test of sorts. They argued that elected leaders of the SBC should come from churches that support the Cooperative Program with at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts. The fundamentalists countered that argument by saying they should not have to support that with which they did not agree. Their success in taking over the Convention proved that they were right. Ironically, T.C. Pickney, at this week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, made a motion that one of the qualifications of being an elected leader in the Southern Baptist Convention be membership in a local church that gives at least 10 percent of its undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program. Maybe now they wish they had not been so right. They are discovering that taking over something is easier than taking care of something. “The wheel has come full circle. . .”
As we look together toward our future as the people of God in this place, we ought to ever be humbly aware of how little we can actually see. As we discern together the direction God might have for us, we ought to do so with the same faithfulness and willingness to sacrifice that motivated the widow to cast her coins in the temple treasury so long ago. What we are doing 10 or 15 years from now is not the most important thing for us to know. Neither is knowing where and how we will be expressing our faith or with what other groups or individuals we will be working with to share the love of Christ. What is important, vitally important, is knowing Who has called us, has saved us, Who has commissioned us to go into the world with words of life. Some things are just too far into the future for us to see, whether we are talking about tomorrow or next year; but what is possible for us to always know is that God is with us and will be with us. More than that, God will not stop calling us, stop inviting us to join in the task of living and telling the story of God’s great love for every person, in every nation, in all of God’s creation.
Future, Forward, Faith is about asking questions, dreaming answers, and listening to one another. We may have all kinds of questions about our future. We may explore an array of ways to go forward. Yet, our questions about faith will not be as uncertain as perhaps those about the future and going forward into it are. This is true because yesterday, today, and tomorrow God’s desire is the same. God wants to be in an intimate, loving relationship with everyone in the human race. That includes each one of us. God not only wants to be in that kind of relationship with us, God also wants us to be a part of introducing others to that kind of relationship.
Therefore, the questions about our faith will be more about us than they are about God. As we go forward into the future together, how will our faith grow deeper, richer, and broader? Will we be more in love with God? That depends to some extent on us, on how we answer some of those questions, and on the ways we choose to serve our Lord. Ultimately, we circle back to the cross of Calvary and sacrificial love. That amazing love calls us to sacrificial living. If the cross is before us, our faith cannot help but grow deeper, richer and broader.