Like several of you, I woke up to the disappointing reality last Sunday (May 28) that our power was out at the house and at the church. As I am writing this on the last day of May, there are still over 40,000 in the Memphis Metro area without power. I am praying that this number goes down drastically by the time this will have reached you. I invite you to pray for the efforts being taken to restore power and to offer aid to those who are without.
I must admit that while I was frustrated Sunday morning, I also chuckled a bit at the interesting timing of this power outage with relation to where we were/are in the liturgical calendar – how it coincided with the time period in between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the Spirit’s being poured out in power on the disciples in Jerusalem at Pentecost. They had to wait 10 days for power. (It seems that some may have to wait that long here in Memphis, too.) For a moment, I had pondered whether or not we should cancel the service since there was no power, but I took a deep breath, consulted with others, and together we determined that the temperature and other conditions were too favorable to call it off.
In the sermon I preached on that day, I quoted E. Stanley Jones, Methodist missionary to India in the early 20th century, who said that those ten days “…were the most pregnant ten days in human history. The higher destiny of a race was in the womb of those hours. A new age would be born.” This makes such sense as the day of Pentecost is frequently referred to as the “birthday of the church.” The disciples gathered together in humility and prayer is the church in utero, waiting for the last stage of prenatal development – the ability to breathe well. The Spirit (breath) of God would birth the church just a few days later.
As I shared in a somewhat different way in that sermon, I believe we at Ellendale are in some very pregnant days – not just because of the fact that we are celebrating some upcoming arrivals of bundles of joy to some of our parents – but because of the dawning of a day when we will be freed from a debt that has burdened us for 10 years. We’ve got some time between now and then to work on our breathing…on developing our understanding of what’s ahead…on discerning together as God’s people at Ellendale UMC what God’s desired future is for our church.
Another account in the Bible brings this into more focus – Moses and the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai. In Exodus 33, Moses is conversing with God about what the next steps are for the Israelites in the wilderness. Part of Moses’ bold prayer in that chapter was that God would show the way and that God would not send them on to what was next unless God’s presence would be with them. And so it was for them, and so it was for the disciples that gathered in Jerusalem to wait for God’s presence (God’s Spirit) to indwell them which would empower them to fulfill God’s way for them. So it will be for us – if we insist on just going on without consulting God or waiting for the Holy Spirit to lead us, we will be relying on an underdeveloped set of lungs and will run out of steam. Let’s take our time, then, and learn how to breathe in whatever chapter is next.