Zechariah and the Day of Small Things

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BY RUSTY RUSHING |

“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” Zechariah 4:10 ESV

Earlier this week, a pastor that I follow on Twitter tweeted out this verse of Scripture. He offered no explanation or elaboration on the verse, no context or story; he simply posted the verse. And as I read it, it just spoke to me.

Admittedly, this is a pretty obscure verse of Scripture. In fact, it might even be one that you’ve never read or have simply glossed offer hundreds of times. But, whatever the case, I think it’s a significant verse for us to consider given where we are as a congregation.

This verse is included in a vision that God revealed to the prophet Zechariah during the period when the Jews were just returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile. [1]

At first, there was great joy and hope among God’s people as they returned home and, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, began to rebuild the temple. They laid the foundation of the temple, but, despite the decree of King Cyrus of Persia which granted them the freedom to return and rebuild the temple, the rebuilding project suffered tremendous opposition from people in and around Jerusalem.[2] In time, in the face of this opposition, enthusiasm and hope waned. Fears grew, as did frustration and discouragement over the lack of building progress. Despondency set in and faith faded, leading the people to lose heart for the mission and abandon the rebuilding efforts…Though they had been freed from the physical exile and were allowed to return home, those that returned to Jerusalem were still experiencing a sense of spiritual exile, wondering whether they were still part of God’s plan or whether they had been abandoned.

Many years passed and only the temple foundation remained built. Then, in approximately 520 B.C., God spoke to the people through Zechariah, encouraging them to resume rebuilding the temple. [3] And it was within this context, a call to God’s people to resume rebuilding the temple, that God spoke the words, “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (ESV). These were words of assurance to God’s people that though the rebuilding project looked small and insignificant to them, by the power of His Spirit, He would work through Zerubbabel to ensure the temple was rebuilt. Perhaps even more importantly, however, these were words of assurance to God’s people that His presence was still with them and working for and through them, and that He still had a plan to bless them.

And, just as God assured the people would occur, in 516 B.C., the rebuilding of temple was completed.[4] Through this experience God’s people learned a valuable lesson of faith: though new beginnings may look small and insignificant from our perspective, and though we may face opposition from others and progress may be slower than we want, that does not mean that God’s presence is not with His people, working in and through people of faith to accomplish great tasks, blessing them, and providing them opportunities to rejoice as His plan of redemption moves forward.

Great story, huh? But what does this have to do with us here at Peace? Well, I think a great deal.

Photo of Peace Moravian Church outside of Hawk Ridge Elementary for worship on Easter, 2017

The Peace congregation gathered outside of Hawk Ridge Elementary for worship on Easter, 2017.

Over the last year as Peace has attempted to start over as a church we’ve gone from worshipping in the Moravian House to worshipping at Hawk Ridge Elementary. As we did, I shared statistics showing that new churches that worship in public places, especially schools, have higher worship attendance. And, so as we set out for Hawk Ridge, we did so with great hope and even enthusiasm.

In our short time at Hawk Ridge, we’ve begun serving the community there, collecting school supplies for them and becoming reading buddies at the school, attempting to serve the students and faculty of Hawk Ridge and begin to build relationships with them. In July, a number of us met with the principal of Hawk Ridge to discuss even more significant ways we can serve them and further integrate ourselves into their community next school year.

In addition to our move to Hawk Ridge, we’ve also relocated our offices to Greylyn Business Park. And, Joyce Vance, Peace’s Director of Christian Education, and I have been dreaming about ways our new space can provide us with additional opportunities to connect with one another and the community where we now find ourselves. In particular, I am personally very excited about exploring potential partnering and service opportunities with the Community Culinary School of the Carolinas (CCSC) which is located in Greylyn. CCSC is a wonderful ministry that provides “workplace development” for “adults who face barriers gaining long-term successful employment.” They provide job training, counseling, and assist in helping people develop life skills. CCSC is nourishing the community helping those they serve transform their lives. And, we have begun dreaming about ways we might be able to join them in nourishing the community by being agents of God’s peace.

But, as we look back at our efforts over the past year and the progress we have made, I will be the first to admit that our progress has been much slower than I or any of us would have desired. Securing office space and moving took far longer and required far more time and energy than I would ever imagined.

I also realize that if we examine our efforts and what we’ve accomplished thus far it would be easy for us to be frustrated and discouraged and to begin to lose heart at these “small things,” questioning whether we are still part of God’s plan and whether He has a plan for us. It would be easy for us to abandon the mission and “despise the day of small things.”

However, these things had to happen before we could begin to move forward and discover who and where God is calling us to be. New beginnings often appear to be “small things,” but they set the stage for development, growth, and maturation. Now, with these moves behind us and new relationships with Hawk Ridge and CCSC beginning to develop, we are set to get down the hard work of discipleship, growing as disciples individually and as a community, and joining God in His mission. And that is going to be our focus going forward. It’s going to be hard work, filled with twists, turns, and uncertainties. But if we are willing to become the disciples Jesus calls us to be, one day we will look back on “the day of small things” and rejoice at what God has done in and through us. And I for one am excited about the journey.

This piece was originally published in the June 2017 edition of the Peace Moravian Church newsletter.

Footnotes:

[1] New Bible commentary: 21st century ed. (Leicester (GB): Inter-Varsity Press, 1997)., 863.

[2] Ibid, 863.

[3] Ibid, 863.

[4] Ibid, 864.

 


Photo of Rusty Rushing

Photo by Patti Smith

Rusty Rushing is a provincial acolyte and student pastor at Peace Moravian Church in Charlotte, NC

 

 

 

 

 

Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

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BY BETH HAYES | 

Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

I just returned from a symposium in Connecticut done by Lifelong Faith Associates on families at the center of faith formation. It was quite the experience to be in a beautiful fall setting where leaders in churches from different denominations gathered to brainstorm. In our brainstorming, we planed ways for our congregations to celebrate family and help families to be more intentional about faith formation in their homes. More and more I realize that faith formation is not solely a congregational responsibility nor totally a home responsibility, but the two places working together.

The conference gave me many things to ponder, but most helpful was a reintroduction to “milestones ministry.” It is an essential tool for faith formation in the twenty-first century. Simply put, this ministry nurtures Christian faith, strength, and relationships. In churches and homes, it provides a way to reach out to others with the love of God in very simple and practical ways for all generations. Visit the website milestoneministry.org to read and learn more about church and home being vital places in the world. It is based on five important principles:

  • Faith is formed through relationships. Milestones Ministry brings a cross generational community together to nurture the Christian faith.
  • It is a primary partnership between the ministry of the home and the ministry of the congregation. Each module helps people practice faith with the support of a congregation and in and through ones homes.
  • It honors home as church too. It lifts up daily life relationships, especially parents and other adult mentors.
  • Faith is caught more than it is taught. It models the faith through cross generational experiences and faith practices.
  • If we want Christian children and youth, we need Christian adults around them.

There are five steps to generate a specific milestone memory. You need to first name it – identify meaningful, memorable moments. Then you need to equip it – provide faith practices. A blessing comes next as you offer a prayer. It needs a visual reminder… so gift it. The last step is to reinforce it, by following up to firmly root it in faith.

Children's Festival

Children’s Festival and Lovefeast. August 2016. Photo by Suzy Tucker.

About two years ago, the Children and Family task force produced a piece called Moravian Milestones and Stars. We visited every Regional Conference of Churches and gave a notebook to each church to have. Included are age level breakdowns of what Moravians could be expected to know at each age level. The second half of the piece is a resource from Milestones Ministries where specific milestones such as baptism, mission trips, going off to college, empty nesting and many more are described and ways to celebrate these times both in church and in homes. If you have misplaced the notebook or need another copy, all you need to do is ask me for a replacement.

I have heard some beautiful stories about how milestone ministries are carried out in specific churches. One congregation adorns their hallways leading to the various classrooms with ribbons for each individual. When a milestone is reached and celebrated, a star is placed on the ribbon. Some churches give a bowl or basket at baptism. For each celebration of a specific milestone, a particular stone with the image of that milestone on one side and scripture on the other is given to put in the bowls. An illustration of the rocks is shown. A friend of many of our educators has covenanted to spend her retirement painting these milestone rocks. If you are interested in the rocks, you may contact me and I will put you in touch with Libby Welter or you may email her at libbywelter[AT]gmail.com and tell her what you are wanting.

My next move to encourage our congregations and families is to create some Moravian specific milestones like a first lovefeast, first Easter sunrise service, first Laurel Ridge experience, or first Children’s Festival. You will hear more to come in the next few months as we continue to brainstorm together and create new milestones. Until then, consider beginning this all important ministry in your congregation. You can contact me (Beth Hayes) for help in getting it started. As you continue to see the importance of church and families at home working together, check out the website and Facebook page for Roots and Wings where we will continue to link you to important articles and websites that could be helpful.

And remember this passage from Deuteronomy 6:6-7 as the basis for the importance of this ministry.

 

                                    “Memorize his laws and tell them to your children

                                    Over and over again. Talk about them all the time,

                                    Whether you’re at home or walking along the road

                                    Or going to bed at night or getting up in the morning.”

(Common English Version)


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible

From The Resource Center: What You Need for Advent

Advent - mug and candle

It’s November. The Halloween candy is being taken off the shelf… many stores skipping Thanksgiving and going straight to Christmas. At this point in the year, it is getting easier to start fathoming the cold winds and many Moravian traditions that often accompany the Advent season, but at the risk of being like that store that puts out Christmas decorations just a little too early, we are asking you to think about the Advent season now. Not the shopping, the decorations, or even all of the great food–think of the spiritual journey of Advent. What do you want to experience during this season in your family, with your friends, and by yourself ? So now, before you get caught up in everything else,, think about some of the many books and studies in our Resource Center that can help get you where you truly want to be this Advent…

Group Studies:

find

Finding Bethlehem in the Midst of Bedlam (James Moore) Christmas or confusion, Bethlehem or bedlam . . . Which will you choose this year? The truth is, we don’t have to choose, because Christmas always happens right in the midst of our chaos. God breaks into our noisy disorder and is made known in Jesus Christ. Christmas and confusion—weren’t they intimately related at the first Christmas when Jesus was born? Sometimes we forget that. That’s what this study is about—how Christ breaks into our chaos and confusion and brings Christmas—how Bethlehem always happens in the midst of bedlam. The re-introduction of this all-church Advent study, which features a new Leader Guide and DVD, has five sessions—one for each Sunday of Advent and one for Christmas. Each chapter includes questions for reflection and discussion, a brief prayer, a focus for the week, and six daily Bible readings for personal devotional time during the week.

The Journey: Walking The Road to Bethlehem (Adam Hamilton) Using historical information, archaeological data, and a personal look at some of the stories surrounding the birth, the most amazing moment in history will become more real as you walk along this road. This study includes a DVD and a devotional book.

A Different Kind of Christmas (Mike Slaughter) This will empower your family and your church to reclaim the broader missional meaning of Jesus’ birth, and A different kind of Christmas - bookexperience a Christmas season with more peace and joy than any toy or gadget could ever bring. Discover how Christians can experience the true joy of living and giving like Jesus, beginning with the Christmas season and continuing as a lifestyle. There is a DVD component as well as a devotional book.

Children’s Studies:

The Christmas Shoppe - bookThe Christmas Shoppe: An Advent Experience for Children (Daphna Flegal and Marcia Stoner) Children explore the story and the symbols of Jesus’ birth, peruse the Bible, and create symbols of Advent as special gifts. This book helps children prepare to be a part of the presentation of the Christmas story. It comes with an inter-generational worship model.The Story of Christmas. Inside this Advent calendar you will find 25 small numbered books. As you open the gates, the Christmas story will start to unfold. It teaches children the amazing story of the first Christmas on earth.

Unwrapping the Christmas Crèche (Lisa Flinn and Barbara Younger) This engaging and delightful book follows a child’s thoughts and actions as the Christmas crèche is unwrapped. Each figure comes to life in this Advent adventure! Share Unwrapping the Christmas Crèche with your children as you create memories and traditions of your own.

Individual Studies:sent

Sent: Delivering The Gift of Hope (Jorge Acevedo) “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them . . .” —John 17:18 God sent Christ at Christmas. In turn, Christ sends us into the world to be his hands and feet, head and heart. Dynamic pastor Jorge Acevedo leads us on a 5-week Advent journey to discover how, where, and why we are sent. Joining him on the journey are four young clergy including Jacob Armstrong, Rachel Billups, Justin LaRosa, and Lanecia Rouse, who challenge us through story, art, and Bible study. This devotional, offering four weeks of daily reflections, functions beautifully on its own or as part of the church-wide experience. The reflections are ideal for use during Advent and include Scripture, personal insights, daily challenges, and prayers.

Embodied Light: Advent Reflections on the Incarnation (Melissa Tidwell) The book’s penetrating reflections for Advent reveal how to follow this fully human, fully divine Jesus with our full selves – mind, spirit, and body.

The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During Advent and Christmas (Beth Richardson) Advent is the season when we prepare our lives – hearts, minds, and spirits – for the coming of the Christ child. We sweep out the corners of our hearts, cleaning up the clutter, to make space for God’s hope, peace, joy, love, and presence.

God is IGod is in the manger - bookn The Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) These stirring words are devotions that guide and inspire readers as they move thematically through the weeks of Advent and Christmas, from waiting and mystery to redemption, incarnation, and joy.

Waiting For the Wonder: Voices of Advent (Katerina Katsarka Whitley) You are placed in the hearts and minds of the biblical characters – both real and imagined – who played a part in the Christmas narrative. The voices lead us closer to the Christ child and deepen the meaning of the season of Advent.

Family Studies:
Christmas at our house

Creating Christmas Memories: Family Traditions For a Lifetime (Cheri Fuller) The traditions we share together each year remind us of who we are and where we have been as a family. Christmas is a wonderful time to establish new traditions, enhance old ones, and build special memories.

Christmas At Our House: Family Holiday Traditions (Donna Green) This keepsake book preserves the special holiday traditions and memories that bind families together for your children and grandchildren. It is a joyous celebration of the uniqueness of every family.

The Resource Center’s hours are 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday (evenings and weekends by appointments.) Email bhayes@mcsp.org if you have questions or need more information. You can view our Advent catalog here, or search “Advent” on Resource.Moravian.org.