Monday, April 6, 2009

Lent 34: In transition

1. What is our role in what God is doing as we are in transition? Moves can be chosen or forced, like Elijah’s constant travels in the Bible. One unusual partnership of scripture is between Elijah and the widow of Zarapheth: both were in the middle of hard times and less than idea surroundings. The widow still had to cook, set the table, and clean the dishes. Recognition went to God through the prophet. The woman did the hard work to make it possible for a new season of life, but the miracle was done through the prophet’s prayer and contact with God.

In the story I read this morning, (below) I realized that most of us are supporters of others’ work like the widow, rather than the star of the show like the prophet. In my missions coursework, I see that a few are sent but many others support them. A few leaders have to make decisions on the next step, but most people do routine work to stay alive.

At my job, Advancement is a supporting department. We are organizers who raise money and friends and keep people informed. In other words, we enhance and enable what others do. Our team supports students, faculty, and others who go. Occasionally, we get to go somewhere, too.

Most people's work is part of a bigger picture – each part is vital but not exclusive. God’s work goes on, but we are invited to add our gifts to his mission. At Northwest, Merlin has killer photos in this year's Karisma yearbook, but they’ve published yearbooks before. Kristi is my superb student worker, but Alumni Services must go on even when she’s sick or away. If I disappeared, someone else would be hired to do Alumni Services.

2. God sends change to us as an opportunity to serve him and others: Our university president Dr. Joseph Castleberry calls relocation a necessary migration, built into our DNA. In scripture, when the cloud moved, the Israelites moved. In my home reef tank, animals shed one shell for the other. Corals move around for more space and water flow. All God's creatures are in motion, and God is doing something new among us.

Most of us swim in a small pond, no matter how big the fish (or title on our door). Transition stressors reveal what we care about and what is important to us. So, how do we line up with God’s values?
o It's not what position we have – God doesn’t care about that. We could be a student worker or director or VP.
o It's not what office we scored in a new building – God doesn’t care about that.
o It's not the prestige of recognition, having someone compliment us and tell how valuable we are – God doesn’t care about that.
o It's not the control of workflow: does the buck stop at my desk or am I supporting others’ work – God doesn’t care about that.

3. God values faithfulness in whatever is at hand. The smallest tasks done in his name are as important as the greatest. I stood outside the photo booth at a student event, and knew that I was working for God himself.

Let's see how he will take the little we have to offer, the meager oil poured out in new places to bring abundance and provision. Let’s go into the new space--whatever it looks like--to see how God will use us. Perhaps we will gladden the heart of a prophet like Elijah. Perhaps God will give life provision for a widow and her family. Or more likely, in our case, we'll see how he’ll make it possible to train students at Northwest.

God's peace be with you.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."

Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: "Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there." So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the LORD came to him: "Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food."

So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please, a piece of bread."

"As surely as the LORD your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die."

Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.' "

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah. 1 Kings 17

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