I haven’t written a blog in quite awhile. Spent the last year teaching in a nearby high school seeking what the Lord might have next for Betsy and I. Crazy year of affirmations and seeing the fruitfulness that comes when we just allow the “fruits of the spirit’ do their work. I got to see first hand the power of love, peace, gentleness, patience, kindness and self-control. Without even mentioning the name of Jesus, both teachers and students were greatly impacted and found life in the presence of the spirit.
So where are we now? I was asked to meet with and consider becoming a transitional pastor of Patterson Covenant Church in Patterson California. Patterson is a historic town just off of I-5 and west of Turlock and Modesto. The church is a 117 year old Covenant Church. They went through an incredibly rough season that would have ended any church, but a remnant fought to keep it alive. In my few visits, I saw a people who are welcoming, will serve at a high level, prayerful in every moment, and really worshipped. For me these were qualities that are often hard to coach, yet they embodied them. One often asks why we personally go through what we go through? I could see that my life and ministry journey prepared me and them for this opportunity.
I began in November and as the season of revitalization began, I found the moment of the death of Lazarus as a model to follow.
Remember the story? Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was dying. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to come quickly to heal him. But Jesus knew that death would not have the final word and even though he loved Mary and Martha, he chose to stay for a few more days. After 2 days, he and the disciples headed to Bethany in Judea. When Jesus arrived people were already in deep grief because Lazarus had already died and they had even wrapped him ceremonially and placed him in a tomb. It says that Jesus wept, from perceived grief for Lazarus, but more for the grief of their lack of faith. He let them know that for those who believe, there is no death. Everyone was questioning why Jesus would have let Lazarus die knowing full well that Jesus could have come earlier and healed him. As Jesus approached the tomb, he could see that the tomb was sealed and this made him angry. So he told them to open the tomb and thanked God for what was about to happen and then said, “Lazarus come out!” And out stumbles Lazarus, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus tells them to “unwrap him and let him go.”
The people of this church were in a struggle to survive and in a sense left for dead. People who grew up in this church and raised their children in this church, were now grieving and questioning, where was God in this? So all Betsy and I have done is unwrap them so that can live again. All we have done is love them, provide a peaceful presence, gently unwrap the burial clothes by working through forgiveness and healing, moving forward patiently with kindness, and helping them to rediscover themselves and their calling in the community. As a leader, a new self-control required me to not lead from the front, but instead to come along side them. The result has been healing and empowering.
New life where there once was the smell of death. What will the next season look like? Interesting how Jesus says that things need to die before coming to life. God is definitely up to something in Patterson. Makes me question how quickly we allow things to die and bury them when maybe in the dying is an unforeseen new life.