A Pastoral Word
"The land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined towns are now inhabited and fortified.' Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it...The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, 'Mortal, can these bones live?' I answered, 'O Lord God, you know.' Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.' So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.' I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, 'Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely." Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.'"
For some reason, this particular part of Scripture has been swirling around in my mind for a few weeks. Maybe it's because I feel like it reflects my spiritual journey lately, dry, brittle and empty and then swoosh, the breath of God comes blowing into my prayer life, blowing away the dryness, blowing away the obstacles that have prevented me as a person of faith from really experiencing the new life of God, filling me with God's spirit. I realize it is not something that I did to bring on this feeling of new life. It was there all along. I just wasn't able to recognize it because all I have been focusing on was the dryness, the brittleness, the tired feeling deep in my soul. It is funny what happens when one is intentional about stepping back and taking a look at the whole picture. In my spiritual tiredness, I was only seeing part of the picture. I had put my blinders on, focused on the dry empty feelings and that truly prevented me from seeing that God was moving, working, bringing forth new life all around me. I just had to open myself up to God's word and will.
Or maybe this Scripture has been rattling around in my mind, excuse the pun, for a while because it reflects the transformative journey that Midway Christian finds itself on now. From the outside, we look like a small congregation with not a whole lot going on, but the good news is that this is not completely true! We have a lot going on and it's not just programs that are filling our calendars and to do lists! God is doing some amazing things around Midway Christian Church, like pushing us to get our kitchen certified through the health department for one thing! This will open up so many possibilities for how we can connect to the ministry that God is already doing in our Midway Community! For one thing, there is a vision for Midway Christian Church hosting a FREE community meal one night a month for the Midway community, open for all to come and enjoy food, fellowship, and community. First Christian Church in Versailles has a program similar to this and has contacted us in hopes of working with them to get it started in Midway. Think about it! This is an amazing gift that we can offer to our community! It is perfect for senior citizens on a fixed income. They can come in, have a nice meal for free and stretch their dollars just a little bit farther. It is perfect for the frazzled parents who are constantly driving their kids back and forth to Versailles. They can know that on a certain night, dinner is ready, no prep, no dirty dishes, and no French fries stuck in the van seats, just waiting to be found months later. It is perfect for the newcomers to our community who just want to meet their neighbors. It is perfect for just about everyone, you and me included!
With this certified kitchen the possibilities for ministry are endless! There are also conversations about how we can work with our local farmers' market to offer canning classes. This way, our fresh summer vegetables that we buy on Monday at our farmers' market can be enjoyed even in the winter months when we are all wanting reminders that summer is not far away. These classes could also become a way that people in our community on a fixed income can stretch their dollars a little more and offer them healthy alternatives to cheaper food that is not as healthy.
The kitchen has the potential to add our gifts to the Northside Backpack Project that supports at least 20 families in our Midway Community. Through the school year, these backpacks are taken home by children on Friday afternoon. These backpacks are filled with enough food for meals throughout the weekend until the backpacks are returned on Monday morning so that no one goes hungry. This program, sponsored by Midway Presbyterian Church, has become a lifeline for many children in our community who may wonder where their next meal is coming from while at home on the weekends. There is an idea for making homemade treats that will be added to these backpacks as a special way of showing that people care. Remember when we were in college and we got the care packages from our home churches, filled with homemade treats? Those treats reminded us that we were loved, that someone thought we were special, that someone cared enough for us to send us some homemade goodies! With the kitchen being certified, our members and members from our community can share their love through homemade goodies with the children in our community and let them know that someone thinks they are special, too.
There are even conversations about Fall Festival and the kitchen. As you may remember, we usually have items from Ten Thousand Villages which are fair trade items, crafts made from people around the world who sell their products to receive a fair wage to support their families. So why not take it one step further? Why not set up a fair trade café, selling fair trade coffee and baked goods made with other fair trade products as a fund-raiser for our church? And maybe while we are thinking outside of the box, we could set up our fair trade café once a month as an opportunity for our community to gather and to get to know one another, offering our wi-fi for people's use.
At this point, all these ideas and visions are just that - dreams and visions- but isn't it exciting to think about where God is working in our community, and just like the bones that God revived, there is life in these "dry and brittle" bones once more!
But the Spirit of God is not stopping there! Have you been around the church on Wednesday nights? If you haven't, stop by one night and you'll find that a large number of bike riders are using Midway Christian as their beginning place for their Wednesday night ride. The group is part of the Bluegrass Bicycling Club and this opportunity of welcome came about through some conversations between members of our church and members of the Bicycling Club! On Wednesday nights, we open our doors, offer some water and the restrooms, all with a little bit of Midway WELCOME. And the response has been amazing! In fact, the riders are thinking about adding another night because the group has "outgrown" the Wednesday night space!
God is doing some amazing things around our community of Midway. And now God is calling us to tell the story. God is calling us to tell the dry and brittle bones, those people who say the church is irrelevant, who say that the church has no function, who say that God is not speaking to God's people any more, that God is still moving in this world, that God is still working in this world, and that God has the last word and that word is a word of peace and hope! We are on a journey together. We are surfing the edge together. We are discovering where God is calling us and how to become the people that God called us to be. And we are doing this together. I realized that I'm coming up to my five year mark of ministry with Midway Christian. This is big for Midway Christian and to be honest, it is a huge milestone for me as well. When I served in previous positions, I realized that I usually transitioned to a new venture around the two year mark so I'm excited to see year 5! And as for Midway Christian, for the last couple of decades, most of your ministers have usually transitioned around the 5 year mark so I'm sure maybe at some level, there is some question about when am I transitioning. Let me reassure the church. I have no plans to transition. We are journeying together wherever God leads us! The only question is are we ready for the ride!? I know that I am!