Another pool in the Three Streams journey - Printable Version

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Another pool in the Three Streams journey - DeanZF - 07-05-2009

We had a nice service today, a combination of celebration of what God has given us as Americans and what He has given us as believers. There were several “aha” moments for me in the service. You know the sorts of things where you read something that you’ve not seen in a song or hymn or in the Word of God that you somehow missed? It was that kind of nifty morning.

The Old Testament reading was Ezekiel 2, where God issues His call to an apparently young Ezekiel. I think it’s a wonderful reminder to all who minister in any capacity in the Father’s vineyard. Nothing of it was new, but it was ever-fresh as always. God told Ezekiel what He was sending him to do, and He told him what to expect—a rebellious and obstinate people who weren’t going to heed the words of prophecy. So, God is telling Zeke that he’s got a job to do, but to be really clear about what that job is. Zeke is to preach truth, whatever it is that God tells him to say, nothing more, nothing less. His job is to speak forth God’s heart. Notice that I did not say communicate. God was not putting the whole thing on Zeke’s head. He just had to deliver the message. It was not his responsibility that they “get it”. Verse 7 is key, God instructing: “…you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not…”

There are so many pastors and worship ministers who know that they are called to pastor and teach or to lead others in worship and praise. They know in their knowers what God wants them to do, but so many of them get frustrated, hurt, or angry at the lack of response, the lack of listening in Ezekiel’s instruction. Archbishop Bates spoke eloquently to that in a service a month or so ago. Go back to when you were absolutely sure that you knew what exactly it was that God told you to do, and then do that!

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But what does that look like? I think that most of us who’ve been in any sort of ministry for any length of years can attest to building up expectations and visions about how things ought to be or how they could be or how we’d like them to be. If we as pastors and ministers can return and read the fine print of that call, we’ll probably see a similar clause in our call as well, “whether they listen or not”. There’s an old adage about leading a horse to water but not being able to force that horse to drink. We can lead people to the wells of living water, but we can’t do any more than invite them and provide a cup. We can offer them the Bread of Life, but we can’t chew for them. We can provide the framework for their worship and praise, but they have to provide lips and breath and limbs that move. If we can do these things “whether they listen or not”, we’ll be much happier workers in the vineyard, yes? We’re the messengers and He’s still God, the One Who woos and beckons and Who welcomes them once they respond and Who applauds with joy when they finally lift their hearts and voices to Him.

Remembering the details of the call and being faithful to that call—isn’t that what obedience and being a faithful witness is about?

There was a second “aha” moment, too. Our last song today was the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Toward the end of the second verse are two great lines, “Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet! Our God is marching on.” I’ve sung this song since high school, 45 years (yes, that’s scary!), and I don’t think I’ve ever had the jubilant feet line speak to me at all. Why today?

Our pastor/bishop is a strong supporter of worship and of things concerning pageantry and movement. The past few Sundays, he’s been tryin’ out his moves on us. Smile The “moves” mostly consist of a complete 360-degree spin on the ball of his foot, smiling all the while. It makes the folks smile and laugh, but it also sends a strong message that it’s good to move and celebrate our God and maybe get outside of our comfort zones. Today after the last song, I felt impressed to draw attention to those couple of lines. Bishop preached on the issue of being a true and faithful witness. Having a soul that is swift to answer is a pretty good definition of a faithful witness, and add to that feet that are by nature jubilant, is a great evangelistic tool. If my feet are jubilant, my heart will know it and if my heart knows it, my face will glow with the same jubilation. That joy will affect and infect others.

Once that joy infects them, I will have opportunities to share the Why and the Who of the joy.