One of my favorite songs is Rachel Lampa's Blessed. When I want to reflect about how blessed I am, or when I'm discouraged and I need to find a way to pull myself out of that hole, her gentle song of blessing brings joy to my heart.
Tonight, my heart is full once again.
The Village Church has been a dream, that God has been working on in my heart for several years now. The journey to become the "church planter" of The Village was arduous at times. I understand, now, why the apostle Paul would sometimes give thanks for the physical pains and the tribulations of his life. You see, the obstacles I faced, as I tried to make a way to plant The Village Church, just helped deepen my sense of call. The perseverance made the project all the more holy to me.
Tonight, my heart is full, because yesterday we celebrated Easter joy as The Village Church. We gathered in the shelterhouse at Walbridge Park in South Toledo; through the windows we could see the beauty of God's creation, including the Maumee River. During the months that God was showing me the vision for The Village, I took many prayer walks in Walbridge Park. The place became one of those holy places where I felt the presence of God, as I struggled and listened and discovered the call God was making upon my life.
Yesterday our celebration included amazing music from a six piece band that was playing together for the first time. A visual artist, with a passion for helping others express joy and creativity, painted her expression of joy while we were watching and celebrating. We shared a meal of delightful food; then we shared the common meal of Holy Communion, and experienced a bond with followers of Jesus all over the world. We read the Easter story from John's Gospel and celebrated the amazing grace of God's love revealed in Jesus. We remembered that when Jesus returned to see his friends, (we wondered why he was not angry with them), that Jesus just kept loving them, encourging them to cast their nets again, and then he fixed breakfast for them. Jesus never failed to love them; and he never fails to love us.
Yesterday as the pastor of The Village Church, I was blessed to see faces of those who have been with me since we first gathered in my living room in October of 2007, to dream about what The Village Church might look like. Yesterday I was also blessed to see faces of those whom I had never met before.
We were blessed to be a group of 62 persons gathering for this worship celebration, young and old, black and white, financially wealthy and those who are struggling to pay the bills. Our common bond was our willingness to be open to the mystery of God, and the desire to come together with other people to celebrate the gift of God's love in Jesus.
I feel so blessed tonight. I am blessed to be a follower of Jesus with the privilege of being a pastor. I am blessed to have the wonderful challenge of working with a group of people to create a new faith community for a new day. I am blessed to have a husband and two children who are as excited about The Village as I am (well, at least Kurt and Becca are -- Jamie is only six so he comes along for the ride.) I am blessed to have two young staff partners to work with: Jessica Lucero, our Children's Leader and Joe Woods, our new Band Leader. I am blessed to have friends and colleagues all across the country and beyond who are praying for me and for The Village Church, who encourage me when I get discouraged, and who kick me in the butt when I need that too. I am blessed to be doing the work that I believe God put me on this earth to do.
I pray that with The Village we can be God's instruments -- and that all of us who follow the way of Jesus might have the gift of living out God's desire for our lives. Tonight, I am simply thankful for my many blessings. If you want to hear a good song, go find Rachel Lampa's Blessed, and give thanks to God for your blessings too.