The Journey: First Things 6-3-2021
By Dean FosterJune 3, 2021
The Journey: First Things
By Dean Foster
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
I'd been the part-time Licensed Local Pastor at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church for a few months before the day this all started to unfold. Which makes it all the more surprising, even when I look back at it now. Then again, knowing God and his wonderful sense of humor, it shouldn't be surprising at all.
Welcome to the Journey.
I had made a habit of trying to get over to the church one day during the week when no one else was going to be around. That is, no one mowing the grass or cleaning or fixing something. etc. Aside from the Tuesday afternoon Bible study there was rarely anyone in the white painted cement block rectangular building between Sundays. Mount Pleasant was similar to thousands of small churches across the country in that way. We more or less blended in along the side of the road from Sunday to Sunday. Empty gravel parking lot, black roof, sign out front, nothing fancy, no façade, just a simple, modest House of God.
Once inside though, in the sanctuary during the week, I felt more at peace alone with God than anywhere I have ever been before or since. Inside that quaint, far from perfect but cared for and beloved sanctuary, God had blessed us with the privilege it is to come into his presence. To serve Him by being with and serving others. The brothers and sisters in Christ at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church were helping me learn how to use my spiritual gifts for ministry.
You don't become a pastor by reading books. God calls you and sends you. Then his Spirit guides you to walk among His people as a leader and teacher to help them in their walk.
I would go to the church during the week and into the sanctuary. I could pray over the pews where I knew who would sit where. Smiling at the thought that we could have visitors join us for worship who might sit in someone's spot. Actually, I remember praying more than once for that to happen. Kind of a joke I had with God. And more than once it did.
I'd have sermon notes with me. Take them to the pulpit off to one side of the Lord's Table on the chancel. Pray over what the Lord had given or was giving me for Sunday, think it through.
Then behind the pulpit, a few steps back in the corner of the room, there was a four-foot-long pew. This pastor's pew was where I sat to take part in the worship before the sermon. And on those private days during the week when it was just God and me there at the church. I'd sit there to just be still, and know that He is God. Oh, what a knowing that can be.
One day, after those few months being at the church, of coming and going, teaching and worship, seeking God together with the Mount Pleasant Church. I was sitting there in the preacher's pew. Simply sitting, not thinking or praying, just being with God. Then my eyes happened to follow one of the narrow-stained glass windows up to where it came to a peak near the ceiling.
Suddenly, unbelievably, I noticed for the first time that the white painted window-casing around the multicolored stained-glass windows, had apparently been completely overlooked for years. Above the chandeliers the white window casing and frames that allowed the summer sun to filter into that charming, well kept, well-loved sanctuary had turned gray with age and was so dry it was peeling off in places on its own. It hadn't been touched in years.
I am fairly sure that my mouth didn't drop open, but can't tell you why. I was awed in my unbelief. How could such an oversight occur in this beautiful old church? Wait! How could I be there for months now without noticing it?
The paint on the window casing above the chandeliers, and the crown molding all around the ceiling, was old, faded, and dried out to the point it was literally curling back in large chips. I looked at it and couldn't see what kept the potato chip like pieces from falling off onto the floor or the ends of the pews. Walking out to the center isle I saw that all the windows were that way. Windows themselves were clean and bright with color from the sun. All held firmly in place by their caulking the casings and frames. Just the paint on the casings and frames hadn't been touched in years.
I knew right away I could ask Jack about it the next time I saw him. Jack was the nice older fella who took care of the building. Everything from mowing the lawn to the plumbing to priming the well, to you name it, Jack did it. He did it all very well and had been the building guy for years. He'd know what was up with the windows.
Then, Sundays came and went, board meetings too. I just never thought of bringing it up to Jack or anyone else. Forgot about the windows most of the time, out of sight out of mind, I guess. Something like that. Every once in a while, during the week I would notice the windows again, but the Body of Christ that the Church at Mount Pleasant was just carried on, with or without new paint.
Then one day when I was at the church for some time with God, Jack came by to do some repairs to something. This happened from time to time and it was nice because it was a chance for us to sit and talk just one to one which we both enjoyed. That day he came upstairs and we sat down in my office. After some small talk about what he was fixing and what it needed I happened to think of the windows and told Jack I had something I wanted to ask him about. About the window casing in the sanctuary.
Jack settled into the chair he was sitting in and grinned, "I wondered when you were going to get to that. All of our pastors do. Usually sooner than you have."
Not sure what he meant by that I asked, "O.K., what's the story on the paint up there?"
Jack was smiling now, like a teacher who has brought his student to the question he wanted me to ask. "Well pastor," Jack said, "how many times have you heard the people around here say, 'We keep the main thing the main thing at this church.' ?"
It was true, I'd heard that expression used by more than a few of the people there. Jack continued by telling me the building was sound and he kept everything in good working order. Which we both knew. Then he reminded me by asking, "Didn't Jesus say, 'Seek first, his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.'?"
I agreed. Then Jack, who was never one to go into detail if a few words would suffice said:
"I guess that's what we've decided to do here pastor. We are seeking his Kingdom first. The window casing and frames will take care of themselves."
Can't argue with that.
This is the Journey.