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pic1Ezekiel 37: 1-6 1The 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 around 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.” [1]

From The Pastor’s Desk:

Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,

What an exciting time!   There are signs of new life everywhere right now in nature.   What was cold, brown and dead just a mere 3 weeks ago is suddenly warm, green and coming to life.   As a church, we have just entered a new season of worship and discipleship. It is Eastertide and soon we will celebrate the pouring out of God’s Spirit at Pentecost.

We spent a lot of time this past Lenten Season in worship preparing ourselves to be aware of God’s Spirit and to receive it.   We focused on how we might put ourselves in God’s path to experience transformation by using the means of grace God provides.   We literally placed our baptismal font and the cross at the epicenter of worship, reminding us of the gift of salvation and the promise of God’s faithfulness in covenant with us at our baptism.  All that we do as a church emanates from the gift of grace we receive through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and living out our baptismal promises to be faithful disciples, dying to our old ways and putting on Christ.  These sustain and guide us throughout our faith journey and in our personal relationship with Christ.

Moving into Eastertide, we are exploring the commandments and promises of Christ to the disciples.  These commandments call us to love one another, not only in word and belief but through loving actions of grace and mercy to one another and to our neighbor that embody what we say and what we believe.   We are beginning to talk about examples of these loving actions both given and received by one another.  These remind us that it is possible, with Christ, to do what he has commanded.  The gifts we receive as we do these things, we are learning, are God’s gift of peace and of the Holy Spirit-the promised presence of Christ-which continually transforms our hearts as we give more of ourselves and our actions over to the Lordship of Christ.   All of this we do in order that we might continue learning and committing ourselves to live more and more authentic lives of discipleship.

 I hope that during these seasons of Lent and Eastertide, we have all taken advantage of the many opportunities in worship, in outreach and fellowship to look into our hearts and even to challenge ourselves to greater accountability and faithfulness in our faith journey.   I encourage you to get or say involved with your spiritual formation.   Try a Bible study, Sunday School class or covenant group.   Along with worship, these are essential to stay in love with God – one of John Wesley’s rules for Methodists.   We are all going to need spiritual passion and strength in the coming weeks and months as we strive to revitalize our church.   Igniting and maintaining passion for God and God’s mission is both commanded and evidence of discipleship.  We are always moving and being pushed to greater levels of transformation (sanctification) as God’s people.

We are never done on this earth with worship or mission.  These are the only reasons for the existence of the church.   While much of the activity we engage in as a church may be related to these, sadly, some are not.   As we begin to evaluate our church structures and activities, we must always be asking ourselves, “How does what we do or want to do serve these primary functions of the church?”   Much prayer and discernment is needed to be able to do this effectively and that effectiveness is not possible without engaging in study of scriptures, worship, prayer and witness.   This means that every member of the body is needed.   We must be unified in Christ and in keeping his commandments.   The ways in which we discern to do that may be different and we may not always agree.  However, one thing is clear, the true marks of discipleship include being faithful to Christ in word, belief and demonstration of belief through loving actions.   We cannot be a faithful body if parts are missing and we are not engaged in activities together that promote healthy relationships, sustain love of God, love of neighbor and lead us to disciple the world.

 More than simply saying what we believe and in addition to staying in love with God by attending upon all of God’s ordinances (prayer, scripture reading, worship, Holy Communion, etc…), a distinctly Wesleyan rule for living includes: Doing all the good you can to as many as you can, in all the ways you can.  Love in action is specifically part of our United Methodist tradition but, most importantly, a commandment of Christ.

As we seek God’s calling for Central United Methodist Church, we will need the prayers, presence, gifts and service (our baptismal promises) of our entire worshiping community.   As we rediscover who our neighbor is and how Christ is leading us to serve our surrounding community, we will uphold and rely on the universal of tenants of our Christian faith-primarily faith in the one, triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   While our church may have been established in or we may have come to this church from a different faith background, we will approach our worship, teaching, discipleship and our renewal of them in a distinctly Wesleyan manner, drawing on the rich heritage, doctrine and practices we have adopted as a congregation of the United Methodist Church.

We may feel that our church has become dry as the bones in Ezekiel’s vision.  In some aspects this is true.   Our spiritual passion has declined.   However, just as we see new life in spring, God can make beautiful things out of dust and deserts.   God is never done with us as long as we are willing to be faithful.  God needs only a faithful remnant to begin God’s good work in us.   Our church is no different.   As we act out our faith, Christ promises us his peace and his presence in the sending of the Holy Spirit.   As we accept the teaching and guidance of the Spirit, we are spurred to more and greater loving actions.

Christ can do more than we can ask or imagine.   Do we believe it?   If so what do our actions say to support our words and belief?   Are we actively engaged in asking God for what we desire?

There have been many hopeful signs of the Spirit moving in our church.   We have begun new Bible studies, tried new things in worship (like using our projector) and in our adult school class, and continued reach out to our community through our feeding ministries.   New faces, as well as familiar ones are worshiping with us.  Hearts are responding to God’s call.   How have you responded?   I’d like to hear about your encounters with God so we can share them with one another.   In the coming weeks, we will continue to call upon the Spirit to move us and this call will manifest in many ways, from workshops and training that help us to love God and neighbor, to new guidelines for service and calls for discipleship to new places and people.

Being faithful to the call will take everything we have and the best thing is, as our familiar hymn reminds us, “All I have needed thy hand has provided, great is thy faithfulness Lord, unto me”.   We’ve been given everything we have and will need for our journey!   Two important questions each of must wrestle with is how much of ourselves are we willing to choose to give back to God and to what degree do we model a heartfelt love of God?  It begins with worship but worship is only the beginning.   I’d like to challenge us to go deeper.   I’d like to challenge all of us to participate in spiritual growth together and let our loving actions demonstrate that we mean what we say when we call ourselves followers or disciples of Christ.    These dry bones will live-we cannot stop the mission of God and whatever God plans to do with our church (that’s us-not the building), but how we respond to these questions will certainly affect the Holy Spirit’s ability to work through us.   Please, though, let us not grieve the Holy Spirit but resolve to do whatever Christ is calling us to do and be willing to go wherever he is sending us.

Please pray for our church and its leadership.   Please pray for hearts to be transformed and revived to put on Christ!   Most of all, don’t go missing from us!   God’s desire is for all of God’s children to be reconciled and to receive grace and peace through Christ, his Son.   He will not leave you or forsake you-ever!

Your Fellow Servant in Christ,

Pastor Heidi

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Eze 37:1–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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