This past Saturday, I attended worship at the Napa Community Seventh-day Adventist Church to honor Marvin Wray’s last day as Pastor prior to his retirement. (Actually, he retired officially on Friday, March 31st. As he said during his final sermon on Saturday, April 1st, this was a “free-bee”!) As you can imagine, the sanctuary was packed with long-time members and those traveling from long distances to honor eighteen years of service to the church and community of Napa. While sharing your deepest appreciation for the role he and the S-dA congregation played in “holding the ropes” for Napa Methodist during our fifteen month recovery and retrofit following the August, 2014 earthquake, I received so much more than I could ever have contributed from the wisdom and compassion of this man.
I’ll share some of the words he shared with the congregation when he first arrived as their pastor on January 1, 2000: Please don’t be afraid. God is in control. Don’t be afraid of change. Change is a beautiful word containing hope, dreams, and promise. God doesn’t change, but He changes us. He takes us just as we are and makes us what we could never be without Him. My personal testimony is one of abundant change. I am so far from the person I used to be and yet I remain far from what God desires me to be. I have changed, I will change, I embrace change.
One of my basic goals is to cause you to think about your own Christian experience. I want you to grapple with how God really wants to live in and through you. I don’t want anything about my relationship with God to be routine. I want the reality of His presence to be new every morning. God is alive and I want our experiences and our worship to be alive also. I have heard too many people talk about boring, irrelevant worship experiences. Our worship is a personal encounter with the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer of the universe. There can be nothing boring or irrelevant about that. I am in awe of God. I approach Him humbly and reverently, but boldly. I am not afraid of God. We talk! He loves me so much that He sent His very own Son to die in my place. I will not praise Him silently! He is worthy of our praise, our honor, our total surrender, and every ounce of energy we have.
Ingrid and I share times of quiet solitude as well as times of raucous laughter. We work, play, dream, reflect, and our emotions run the full spectrum God has placed within us. We live together and sense one another’s presence even when we’re apart. Could it be any less with God? Would you want it to be? We have worked with so many couples who are simply co-existing. I don’t what to co-exist with God. I want to LIVE with Him. I don’t want to tolerate Him. I want to be intimate with Him. I don’t want to survive with Him. I want to thrive with Him. I know this is our first Sabbath together, but are you getting a picture? Trust me, I’m starting out slow. Wait till I get going and get excited. I am guilty of being a dreamer. I have BIG dreams for us and they involve and require your input and participation. My biggest drawback is that I am not a patient person. Pray for me, and help me to dream slowly. Dream with me. What do you want to see in this church a year from now? How about five years from now? If we can dream it, He can do it. So, fasten your seat belt because God is on the move!
Having said all that, let me put in a word of assurance for those who don’t like apple carts upside down. This church is God’s church. It’s not mine and it’s not yours. He has allowed it to be built for His glory and His purpose and His purpose is to draw all people to Himself. We will be a lighthouse. We will be a haven. We will be a place where hungry, hurting souls can find strength and comfort. We will not be in the business of changing and forming lives. That is God’s work. Our work will be to introduce others to the One and provide an atmosphere where we can all be changed into His likeness. Now you tell me, does that sound like fun or what? Not only are we going to do that, but we’re going to have fun at the same time. If you don’t like to laugh, then you might want to hold on to your mouth corners, ‘cause you’re going to have a hard time. Laughter is not irreverent. It is a gift from God and it honors him.
So pray. Pray again. And, pray some more. If we are constantly in an attitude of prayer and surrender for this church then God will indeed do mighty things in our midst. His greatest glory is yet to be seen. Be a part of it.
Thank you, Marvin and Ingrid, for inviting Napa Methodist to be part of God’s glory by doing a mighty thing in our midst; by offering to be our church home when we needed it, you, and God the most! We’ll be forever grateful!
– Pastor Lee