I have volunteered to lead the UMW program for Gillburg UMC's June meeting. Preparing for June invited me to go back and read what I presented in October the last time I spoke to the group. This is what I said on October 19 & 20, 2013 to both Gillburg and Spring Valley United Methodist Women's groups. Could this also apply to you, your women's group, or your church?
"Five of us women attended the Women of Faith Conference last weekend in Charlotte. The theme for the weekend was “Believe God Can Do Anything”. The first speaker on Saturday was Liz Curtis Higgs. She is a well-known author most famous for her book Bad Girls ofthe Bible. I loved what Liz had to say so a small portion of that message is what I would like to share with you today.
Let’s look at the story of Elizabeth - Luke 1: 5-12 - In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
Now Zechariah was a priest entering in a holy place but he didn't expect anything holy to happen. He was startled, and overcome with fear. Don’t we do the same thing on Sunday mornings? When we come to God’s house, what do we expect? Do we expect to meet him here?
Luke 1: 13: But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
The angel said, “Your prayer has been heard.” That’s it. Simple enough. Your prayer has been heard. Do we believe that when we pray?
The angel goes on to tell Zechariah…. Luke 1: 14-17 - He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
And what’s Zechariah’s response? “Are you serious? How can I be sure?” Luke 1:18 - Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
Here Zechariah is saying to God - "that's impossible" - and we still do that today. We read his word and we shake our head and say – "that’s impossible" - but the Truth is:
God Loves to work in the realm of the impossible because that is where He gets all the Glory.
Is anything too hard for our Lord?
Is it too hard for Him to fill the Spring Valley or Gillburg UMC pews on Sunday mornings?
Is it too hard for him to bring growth to His church? Life within these walls? Love among His people?
To grow this UMW group into a force of sisters in Christ that have come together to spread the good news?
The story continues, Luke 1: 19-25 - The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
God loves to bless barren women – Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary, Rebekah, Hannah, and there are more. And the light bulb moment for me here was when the speaker Liz went on to say that “Any kind of barrenness in our lives is God getting ready to bless us.” Will you believe that if you open yourself to the Lord you will be filled? That God will hear and answer your prayer? This could be those barren pews on Sunday mornings, it could also be your marriage, your relationship with your children, the relationships between us gathered here, your work or home environment, or your calling of current purpose in the world.
As Calvin was discerning his call into ministry, one of the books our pastor gave him to read defined calling by saying, “It is the intersection of where one’s greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” Tell me, what is the calling of this women’s group? Do you know that you still have a calling on your life no matter what your age is? Look at story we just read. God can CHOOSE anyone, and He can USE anyone. And I love knowing there is a plan, God’s plan, and we are part of it. So it is our job to open ourselves to being used. What can our time, talents, gifts, service and witness offer the community around us? I would love to see us come together as a powerful group of sisters in Christ who offer the love and light of our savior to those around us. Let’s think, and pray, and be open to what we can do for the children of God outside the walls of this building. As Calvin said it so well this week: Instead of saying, “Look at this small church.” Let us instead say, “Look at all this small church can do!”