Friday, June 22, 2012

Now This is Podracing

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Now this is pod racing! You hear Anakin say as he and R2 find themselves racing though the canyon like alies of the death star. He's just a kid who was told to wait in one of the fighter ships while the others went off into battle. I think there is a difference between racing for the sport and racing because you are in a gigantic battle between good and evil and your life and the lives of others hang in the balance.

Before I came to First Covenant my understanding of prayer was like Anakin's pod racing experience on Tatooine. I believed I should pray and I did pray. While my prayers I believe made a difference there were always other "real" prayer warriors who's prayers were probably more effective than mine. If I neglected to pray I knew someone else probably had it covered.

When I first came to First Covenant one or both of the pastors pulled me aside and wanted to make sure I knew that the church might not even make it through the year. I value honesty but telling a new person that we are just waiting for the final gasping death rattle is probably not a great church growth strategy. I felt God wanted us to be there in spite of the gloom prediction of looming death.  I was surprised to find there really was not any group of prayer warriors that I could find  Folks might pray during the service or before a meeting but I did not find any of the intercessor, spiritual warfare types. I knew God had called us to come to this place on the surface it appeared like it might have a chance to make it. I was sure we could find plenty of things to help with and ways to use our gifts and talents.

I would arrive early for services and I would walk around the outside of the building praying. Then I would often come in and walk through the empty pews praying for the people who would soon be sitting in them. I was not sure why God wanted me there but there seemed to be a big void the prayer departement. So I decided I would start there. The senior pastor at that time had commented to my husband that he had not seen anyone pray like that here. I did eventually meet an older woman who people said prayed. Her age and health made it difficult for her to be at church most weeks.  I spent some time in the church archives trying to figure out why the light had grown so faint in this place.
Its hard to tell from church archives because things are always written to make everyone feel good.
Its a sugar coated kind of telling of the history found in year end reports.

Jesus said in Matthew 21:13""It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'" In my mind if you have a spiritual house and there is no one praying its like finding a person in a coma on a respirator. Not much life there. If we don't abide in Jesus our lives and the life of our churches won't be bearing much fruit. It is when we spend time with Jesus that things start to change. God takes the little we have to give and some how multiplies it. There was a Sunday that the pastor had lost his voice and sent everyone out to the surrounding neighborhood to pray for the people they encountered. I believe that moment was the turning point when we began to see the needs all around us that as a church we had been blind or oblivious to before.

What a vastly different place First Covenant has become. Along the walls on one side are mounted poster boards. On each board there are prayers that people have written. Others go along the wall during our service and pray for those needs. I've heard people say that they wrote something on the wall and God took care of it. These boards become so full that we have to change them out about once a month. There are about seven boards along the wall and they fill up fast.

We have gone from a church where there was once very little if any prayer happening to one that prayer has become vital and important.

I'm not saying that the church has turned around because of my prayers alone. For me it has felt like I have been part of the rebel resistance. Prayer has been something I could do when there seemed to be nothing else to be done. I've gotten to be part of quite an adventure. Just like Luke, Leiah, Han's Solo, Obi Wan and Chewie and the droids we have somehow gotten thrown together and have had to figure things out as we have gone along. Each person doing what they could do to help. There has not been a lot of examples of other places that have come back from the dead to consult with. We have people come to us wanting us to train them to work with the homeless and I want to just laugh and hand them a bible. I mean really, no one gave us step by step instructions how to do this kind of ministry.  We prayed, we talked, we tried, we tried again. We did what we could. Some days we moaned and groaned and felt it was hopeless unless God did something and we prayed some more. We trusted that God would build His church.

Now this is podracing! When what you have done in practice or with the help of others or in a sporting type of situations, suddenly becomes the real thing and you have to use all that stuff you have been training for in a real life encounter between darkness and light. Its not just a simulation its the real battle. Whoo hoo -  Its like the bird who is pushed from the nest who has to really fly or plumet to the hard ground below. Perhaps its time to take that step of faith and really fly.
Isaiah 40:31 "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Dear Lord, We won't really know till we stand before you the little things that we have said or done that made a difference. Help us not clamor for recognition but to simply be available. Help us to open our eyes and see the countless needs all around us every day. Help us to minister to the broken, the hurting, the rejected, the down cast, the lonely, the lost. Help us move our focus off our own problems and back to you and being about your kingdom work that is right in the midst of where we find our selves today.

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