Not too long ago, our church building was sold to a funeral company. Our church membership was slowly being reduced for various reasons, and the building was becoming a burden to the few members who were left. We had no other option but to sell and to trust that this is what God wanted us to do. The new owner, a very kind man, told us that we could continue to worship in his newly-acquired building at no charge for three years, and once that period was over, he would negotiate with us some more. It was a very nice offer, but we were restricted. We could never prepare a scheduled luncheon or plan a fundraiser, because if ever there were a funeral, that, of course, would be the priority. After all, it was the new owner's building and not ours anymore.
Every Sunday morning, we set up the altar, the chairs, the baptismal font, the candles, the cart with all the hymnals, a bulletin board, and a box with file folders holding mail for pickup by congregational members. It is a lot of work every Sunday. And again, after the service has ended, the chairs are stacked, the altar is rolled away into another room, and everything has to be put away again. With only a few members left, it is always hard to find someone to help out, especially when it is an older congregation.
This routine of setting up and taking down again reminded me of the Israelites setting up the tabernacle and taking it down again as they wandered through the desert towards the Promised Land. After forty years, they finally arrived at their Promised Land, just as God had promised them.
Our congregation is wandering through a desert right now, just like the ancient Israelites, wondering what our future will bring.
Deuteronomy 31:6a,8 – Be strong and courageous. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed. (NASB)
If we find ourselves wandering through a desert of despair or a desert of feeling hopeless or a desert of an abandoned relationship or a desert of feeling not wanted, let us remember that God gives us a promise as well: He will be with us always in whatever situation that we are in.
Prayer: Father God, sometimes we are confused and afraid, and it feels like we are wandering in a desert of no return. We are anxious about what the future may hold in store for us. Help us to remember Your promises and go forth into the future in faith, knowing that You are with us always. Amen.