Set the Stage

As many of you may have noticed, work has begun on the renovation of the front of the old sanctuary. The stage area will be replaced with rooms for storage.  (For those of you who were at the Congregational meeting, you may remember that the project wasn’t going to begin until all the necessary funds were received. Well Merlin, Adam and Derek from Cleveringa Construction approached the Consistory about getting started earlier so they would have inside work during the next few months. Their proposal also included waiting to send the bill until funds were available, so the Consistory approved their request).

So, the Cleveringa crew quickly moved in on Tuesday, hung some plastic, built some temporary walls and began dismantling the old stage and choir loft. The space that so often was filled with the beautiful songs of the choir and the preaching of the good news of the gospel was replaced with the sounds of hammers pounding, the screeches of crow bars prying apart lumber, cordless saws cutting through perfectly good lumber and the sad, sad sound of country western music. J Even though the stage had been built sturdy enough to drive a semi on it, by quitting time, was almost completely dismantled. The area had been cleared and was almost ready for a “new stage” for enhancing our ministry.

Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not a very sentimental person—I don’t get too attached to anything that has fulfilled its purpose—and yet as I watched and reflected on the demolition, I felt both a sense of sadness and joy. I began thinking about all of the choir songs and special numbers that were performed on that stage. I thought about all the weddings, the baptisms, the professions of faith, the funerals that were performed by several different pastors. I even thought about the opportunity I had on May 30, 2004 to provide pulpit supply; my first since graduating seminary. I remembered Cory and the youth praise teams leading worship during YEL.

I felt sadness that the stage was gone, and yet I felt great joy when thinking about all the ways God had used that platform to reveal his love and grace to so many of you over the years. And even felt more joy when David Sandbulte brought me a vintage 16 ounce glass Mountain Dew bottle he found under the stage; complete with a soggy cigarette butt in the bottom of it. I began to wonder, did Merlin Cleveringa help build the stage when he was a teenager? Or was it from David’s dad, Henry? Did either of you ever smoke Camel straights? J

As I continued to reflect on my experience, the Spirit brought to mind the story from Luke 5 of when Jesus asked Peter if he could climb in his boat and use it as a stage to preach from. Peter humbly and eagerly welcomed him to use his stage. After he finished preaching, Jesus asked Peter if he would be willing to bring his stage out into the deeper waters to let down his nets and it was there that Jesus invited Peter to become a fisher of men. In a sense Jesus was inviting Peter to leave what was familiar and what likely had resulted in some great memories in order to risk a new adventure with a greater audience.

I thank God for the new stage that we have in the new worship center; I believe God has already revealed his love and his grace in so many ways to so many people from that stage. And yet like Peter, because Jesus said so, I hope each one of us is willing to take a greater risk by taking our stage into deeper waters in order to become fishers of men. “…so they pulled their boats [stages], left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11).

Don’t be afraid…,

Mike Altena


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