Today is April 8, 2020, exactly three years since the day that I was installed as Pastor of the great and growing church family that we call Zion Memorial Missionary Baptist Church. I was honored to be asked to submit my name as a candidate to become the 6th Pastor of this church family. I was honored to be selected as the top candidate among those who had submitted applications. I was honored to go through the selection process with the Pastoral search committee. And, I was honored when the church family, with the approval and blessing of the deacons, voted me in as the 6th Pastor of this church family.
With the honor came a great responsibility as Zion Memorial was a different church on April 8, 2017 than it is now on April 8, 2020. Our congregation was smaller. Our ministries were fewer. Our outreach was less. Our connections were not as strong. Our love was not as evident.
So, with the honor and the responsibility, there was also an opportunity and a temptation. The temptation was to continue on the path that the church family had been on which was marked by losing more members than we were gaining, having more homegoing services than baptisms, new member orientations, weddings and baby dedications. But, then there was the opportunity to do something different, to seek God for vision of a bigger, brighter and better future, and to let the love of God overwhelm us with a desire to love Him and to love those around us.
Beloved, in John 13:35, Jesus tells us, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
And, Zion Memorial, we have loved one another and we have loved those who have graced our times of coming together whether they be of Zion or elsewhere. It is not unusual for visitors to speak of the genuine love and hospitality they experience at Zion Memorial.
As I thought about the church family I was called to Pastor and the church family that I now Pastor, the spirit carried me to Ezekiel 37:3-6 which we know as the passage known as "The Valley Of Dry Bones". God spoke to Ezekiel. Ezekiel responded to God. And God spoke to Ezekiel. Ezekiel responded to God. And God moved in a mighty way.
The scripture reads, "He said to me, 'Mortal, can these bones live?' I answered, 'Lord God, you know.' Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall love. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord."
Ezekiel did as God commanded and all that God said would happen, happened. The dry bones lived.
Beloved, I dare not insult you by comparing my beloved Zion Memorial to dry bones. Instead, I draw your attention to how God, through our faith to Him and the power of the Holy Spirit, has blessed our obedience in seeking Him over these last 3 years.
We are not a perfect church family but we do serve a perfect God and in pursuing Him, we are becoming a more perfect church family.
We are stronger. We are better. We are wiser. We are more loving. We are more kind. We are more faithful. And, we are more effective for the cause of Christ.
I claim no victory in myself. Please note that the word used is "We". I am not the church. You are not the church. We, individually and most importantly collectively, are the church.
The fact that during this time of fear related to COVID-19 so many have scattered while Zion Memorial has found ways to get that much more connected and closer reveals that our love for one another is rich, strong, and vibrant and God is blessing us.
Now, all of us are not completely onboard; but, that is also a part of life. It just means we have others who we need to love on that much more as God would have us to do.
And, loving on Zion Memorial, as the Holy Spirit guides me, that much more is something that is at the forefront of my mind every day.
I am passionate about each and every member being the best that they can be in the eyes of God. God deserves nothing less. Zion Memorial deserves nothing less.
So, without being insulting, these dry bones have lived and are dry bones no more; but, we have to be mindful to keep looking forward and moving forward in fulfilling the vision that God has given because the possibility of becoming dry bones exists if we ever lose sight of God and loosen our grip on our faith in Him, and Him alone.
I am not just your preacher. I am not just your teacher. I am not just your leader. I am your Pastor, the undershepherd of the Great Shepherd, Jesus the Christ, appointed and anointed for this season of Zion Memorial's life.
And, I hope and pray that I will continue to earn your respect, your confidence, your support and your love by giving you the best that God gives me. Again, God deserves nothing less. Zion Memorial deserves nothing less.
So, my beloved Zion Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, Happy Anniversary to us!!! Thank you God for three wonderful years. May our best days be ahead of us.
And, remember, God loves you and I love you too!