this next season
Perhaps I was holding my breath. Our transition back into a fully functioning social world is still in process. During the pandemic, we were isolated, like Elijah alone by the Cherith Brook, where the ravens were commanded to feed him. God planned this place of safety, providing for Elijah’s sustenance during the drought. But isolation is not a good long-term plan. We need community beyond the birds.
After a while the brook dried up because there was no rain in the land. The Lord’s word came to Elijah: Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to take care of you. 1 Kings 17:7-9 (CEB)
God had a plan for the next stage of provision, a gradual re-integration into human relationships of mutual care. Elijah, the widow, and her son lived in a kind of pandemic pod, separated from wider society and sustained by a jar of flour that would not decrease and oil that did not run out until the Lord sent rain again on the earth. Then the time came for Elijah to go back to work.
After many days, the Lord’s word came to Elijah (it was the third year of the drought): Go! Appear before Ahab. I will then send rain on the earth. 1 Kings 18:1 (CEB)
I wonder if Elijah felt ready to get back at it. People were more than ready for the end of the drought and the pandemic. But that also burst our bubbles. We have to ramp up our social interactions and responsibilities. For Elijah it meant a major confrontation with the evil regime of Ahab & Jezebel, the prophets of Baal and Asherah in the sight of all Israel. The time to choose had come.
In the story of Elijah, I notice that God planned for each stage of care- in isolation, in the widow’s home, and for the integration back into Israel. I am grateful for God’s care for us; at each stage of our pandemic drought we have been sustained. And now we are called back into active work, planning and expanding and gathering again.
We are out of practice, but have had three months of in-person worship without interruption. A season of reintegration. transitioning into the next stage. Summer! Time for new ideas, seeking the Lord for direction, stepping out in faith instead of hiding in fear.
Some of us grew up in churches where planning was considered unspiritual. “Letting the Spirit lead” meant not preparing, not practicing. Just wing it and pray that it works out. But God is not anti-planning. Quite the opposite. God had a plan for the outpouring of the Spirit. As it was no accident that Jesus’ death and resurrection were accomplished during Passover, the gathering to celebrate the holiday of Pentecost fifty days later was chosen timing for empowering the disciples to spread news of God’s work.
“Serving next Sunday” was often the most useful section of the bulletin, but it disappeared along with our sense of certainty. Now it is back, as we muster the faith to plan ahead. Even though we don’t see the whole of the future, we believe it exists, and that God has a plan for our fellowship to be a light on a hill, salt in our community, bearing the message of good news.
Where is God calling you to serve? Perhaps in a different capacity than before. Our Creator has made us creative as well, with the ability to grow and change. May we be listening with open hearts and minds as we gather the faith to step forward into the next stage of work.
In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (CEB)