A Moveable Feast. Not to be confused with Hemingway’s famous autobiographical book, bearing this title, which describes his years as a young writer in Paris, full of joie de vivre (joy of life). No, the moveable feast, I’m referring to is Easter. Long before Hemingway wrote his memoir, Easter was known as a “moveable feast” because it was a Christian celebratory feast day which fell on a different date each year, unlike the other Christian holidays with fixed dates. In 2019, Easter’s moveable feast, falls on April 21st.
This description of Easter seems perfectly suited in more than just it’s nomadic calendar setting. A “moveable feast” suggests that this is a celebration we can take with us, where ever we go. It’s moveable and living, just as we are, just as Christ is. Like packing a fantastic picnic feast, we can celebrate Christ’s living presence in any and every place and situation we find ourselves. But a delicious picnic requires preparation. Historically, the Christian church has set apart the 40 days before Easter to prepare for the “feast” celebrating Christ’s saving death and resurrection.
The blizzard hit on Sunday morning. A lone farmer showed up at church. The young pastor prepared to close up for the day. But, the farmer replied, “If I bring out my load of feed to the hogs, and only one hog shows up, I still feed the one that makes the effort”. So, the pastor preached to his lone congregant. The pastor found himself preaching with great liberty. Flying in rarified heights of oratorical glory, he ended up preaching well past his normal sermon time. Somewhat sheepishly, he noted the clock on the wall and hurried to say goodbye to the farmer. The farmer replied, “Pastor, I would feed that one hog. But, I would not feel the need to dump the whole durn load!!”
There are times when we need to heed the farmer’s advice. We can dump too much. We have truth to share. Truth about God. Truth about a person’s issues. Truth about our read of a situation. We never want to be unwilling to “speak truth in love” (Ephesians 4:25). But, sometimes we need to hold on to our “truth”. How do you know when it is time to not dump the whole load?
Harold and I walk into an expansive fitness center. “Wow,” we say. Large signs – “Performance”, “Motivate”, “Achieve” – hang from the walls. Banners list the benefits of connecting with a personal trainer. On a wall-TV, experts recommend best routines for this “fitness journey.” My head swivels right to left and back to center.
One muscular manager steps out from behind the front desk and hands me a schedule of classes. He then confidently motions us to walk with him around the facilities. He proudly points out rows of earnest exercisers, every level, every age. I see a couple men pass each other and pause to talk. The manager pulls my attention back with his comments. “When you come in, you know what to expect. We’ll supply everything you need to accomplish your goals. Assessments. Group fitness classes...” As we walk past floor-to-ceiling glass, we see a group of glistening women stepping in synch. Music is pumping, and the coach shouts, “Hey, I didn’t design this to be easy. But it’s so worth it!” Our tour guide tells us, “Instructors will give you everything possible for the best outcome.” We next walk past a snack-bar – One man is gulping down an energy drink, and he nods at us. Our tour guide says, “We recommend these health drinks too. And have I mentioned our website and podcasts? Knowledge builds motivation, you know.” Okay, I’m impressed. Harold’s grinning and nodding. The manager next pulls out gym membership papers and hands Harold a pen…
As I walked into her little house in Taxisco, Guatemala I was immediately impressed with several things as I looked around. These are people of very humble means. The floor of the house was packed dirt and the walls of the house were made mostly of tin that looked like old roofing material. The house was pretty dark without much natural light or ventilation. It was smoky on the inside because of the open fire which was used for their heating and cooking. There was no electricity, I could see no evidence of running water and the bathroom facilities were an outhouse in their small backyard. I realized it does not get much more primitive than this.
The lady we were visiting had just been visited by Dr. O and RN T just a couple of hours before I arrived. They had come to see her because she was unable to walk to the place where we were holding the medical clinic. She had severe respiratory problems and needed help. Dr. O treated her as best he could for the respiratory problems and an infection as well. He was able to do a nebulizer treatment by plugging the machine into the electric of a nearby neighbor. Medicine was provided and encouragement was given before Dr. O and T went to another “house call”.
Have you ever been driving home in the evening and glanced at a house you pass, noticing the warm light shining through the window? Have you thought, like I have, “I wonder what they are doing tonight? It looks so inviting in that room!” We’ve probably all experienced that wonder before. Chances are, the people living in that house are doing the same thing you and I do when we get home from work or an evening meeting. We kick off our shoes, make and eat dinner and settle in. Maybe we get the kids in the bath and in bed. Maybe we check email or Instagram or throw in a load of laundry. If we have time, we watch a movie on Netflix or read a few chapters of a good book (if we can stay awake!) We have that in common. We spend our evenings doing what most other people in our neighborhood or apartment buildings are doing. We live a common life.
At Fellowship, we also live a common life. We have in common the habit of getting up on Sunday mornings and making our way to church. We worship, listen to the sermon, drink coffee together and head home for a Sabbath afternoon. We have our faith in common. We share the belief that Jesus really is who He said He was, and that He will do what He says He will do. Together and as individuals we believe and trust in God our Savior.
Although our life is common, it is not mundane. It is not ordinary, although it may seem so at times. In reality, we live an uncommon life in that God’s Spirit lives in us. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul writes to the believers, “And God has said, ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” We live with the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in us. That’s certainly not ordinary! When I take time to simmer on that truth, I am blown away by the fact that God uses ordinary people to accomplish HIS unordinary deeds!
What is your most favorite form of travel? Some people just love road trips in their car, windows down, music playing and wind blowing through their hair. Others think that a plane is the way to go. Get on, sit back and read or listen to your music, maybe watch a movie and suddenly – you’re at your destination. Some folks love the adventure of a train and the gentle rocking motion, the restful pace and getting to watch the countryside as it rolls past. But very few of us would choose a noisy, dirty, hot, crowded and uncomfortable bus to do most of our travel for work or pleasure.
Marta Perez is one of our missionaries who serve in the small country of Belize. Belize is a small country with roots going back to the colonial era of Britain and is now a commonwealth of Great Britain. The official language is English but there are many Spanish speakers and also a local language that is a kind of English based Creole. Marta and the rest of her team work with children and teens throughout the country in teaching Bible clubs, hosting youth events, doing special programs in schools and having summer camp. It is a valuable ministry and has far reaching impact.
For this reason, we felt led to create opportunity for women to chat more often. To connect on a deeper level and really get to know each other. We stumbled upon an activity called the IF: Table. It is simple in its design and yet very effective in connecting women. The concept is based of Acts 2:46 “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” The design is to have a table of six women, answer four questions over a two-hour period. Ideally, these same women would meet each month and grow together. They would also share a meal together, take time listening to each other’s answers without interruption. That simple.
A Liturgy for the Changing of Diapers
I’ve often struggled with wondering - at the end of an exhausting day, where nothing particularly impressive has been done - have I really made any difference at all? It can be really easy to look in the wrong places for tangible evidence of self worth. Serving in a particular ministry at church can have immediate positive effects to the people around you. The pull to “keep up” with friends and spend time with each of them to assure them of their importance in your life can feel powerful. Attending or organizing events, coaching a team, bringing a meal to a neighbor, attempting to look really “put together” to impress everyone with how well you are managing life…all of these things can unearth fears and make you wrestle with what really matters. So easily we seek horizontally for the rest that we can only find vertically.
“I hope the rain will stop!”
“I hope that my kids will behave this time.”
“I hope I finally get a promotion!”
“I hope that I’ll feel better soon.”
So what does “hope” mean in those statements? It seems that the speakers are dissatisfied with their current situation and “cherish a desire with anticipation” (that’s Merriam-Webster’s definition, by the way). In the musical “Annie”, Orphan Annie sang well about that kind of hope: “I just stick out my chin and say, Oh… Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow. You’re always a day away.” She hoped.
Now consider Fellowship Community Church’s mission statement: “We exist to be a community of hope in Christ.” As an affirmation of that statement, “Community of Hope” banners hang in our parking lot. Though they look nice, do you wonder what that phrase means? Could it simply be reworded, “We’re a bunch of discontented people”? I hope you laughed about my rewording just now, because “hope” in the Bible has a different, much more exciting, deeper, richer meaning. Merriam-Webster tells me that the “archaic” meaning of “hope” is trust. And check out the definition of “trust”: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone. For those of us at Fellowship, that Someone is Christ. That’s not future hope. Not just Annie’s “I love you, tomorrow” hope. It’s right now. Today. This minute. And synonyms for this kind of hope? Confidence. Certainty. Assurance. Wow, I like that! With the first definition, we were left uncertain and chewing our fingernails. But with this second definition, hey, our shoulders go back, our smiles grow wide, and our hearts beat steady and firm. We stride into 2019… with hope!
Let’s now consider Fellowship’s vision statement: “Fellowship Community Church seeks to help build communities that experience hope in Jesus Christ and share that hope with our neighbors here and around the world.” How does this work? Consider FCC’s Living Nativity. Don’t you love it?! Hundreds of us – all volunteering in the middle of a hectic month – happily get involved, from set-up and decorations to parking lot to costumes to cookies to tour guides to golf-cart drivers to clean-up. Community. Men play prophets. Angels soar. Young shepherds collapse on the ground. Children run to Jesus. Loud-voiced guys try to control their boat during a storm. And disciples gaze up at Jesus who rises into the clouds. Meanwhile, someone (okay, lots of people) push those behind-the-scenes buttons, check the loud-speakers, and propel that angel choir into the sky. And bless those helpers who secretly bring us hot chocolate, hand-warmers, and food.
One heart. One mind. Lots of hands. Community. A community of hope in Christ.