Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Oasis at St. Nazianz Part 3

If you want to read parts one and two, click on the "Oasis Sermons and Suff" label below.   On with the story...  

A few years later, the church I served developed an O.A.S.I.S. theme. I remember the day the idea came to me.  I had been praying with a group of fellow pastors who had been participating for some months in a church revitalization project sponsored by our Assemblies of God WI and N. Michigan District.

An OASIS.  A place of peace, of restoration and refreshing.  A place of spiritual "water." 

I remembered how, some time back, and before I had even come to pastor in the little town of New Holstein, I had repeatedly read the beautiful words of Isaiah, chapter 43.  I couldn't get the words out of my head.

“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert...
Because I give waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My people, My chosen.
This people I have formed for Myself;
They shall declare My praise."

I knew the passage referred to the nation of Israel.  I wasn't sure what it had to do with me or why I  felt so drawn to it, but I used the passage to meditate, to pray, and I preached on it more than once.  That Isaiah passage does sound like a spiritual oasis, doesn't it?

At first, I rejected the oasis idea. How silly. We aren't in tha kind of place--it's lush and green here. It is Wisconsin.  

But the oasis idea didn't die.  I eventually shared it with others at the church and together we developed an acrostic.  I remember the day, and the memory makes me smile, when the last part was put in place.  We had everything but the O.  A group of church folks were sitting with me in a classroom doing some brainstorming.  We were enjoying each other's company, but nothing much was coming of our interaction.

Then John, a deacon and a friend said suddenly, "Offer hope."  The rest of us stared at him.  It grew quiet for a moment, then we all said, almost in unison, "That's it!"  We had our completed acrostic. 

O   Offer Hope
A   Advance God's Kingdom
S    Share God's Love
I     Invest in People
S    Seek God's Purposes

I developed a Advent devotional book based on the theme and I preached a series of sermons. I preparation for a special OASIS Sunday, we build a small oasis in the entryway, complete with fountain and pool and palm trees.  We even had dessert "rocks" made from grocery bags.  Crumpled brown paper and a little spray paint can make a great scenic prop!   A friend designed a banner which hung in the sanctuary.  It was a good time at Jubilee AG, a time of hope and connection.  The label "OASIS Sermons and Stuff" links to some of that, as well as this current story. 

Of course, when I resigned some years later the banner was removed from the sanctuary wall.  It was time for new vision, new leadership and new ideas, as is always the case when a pastor leaves a church.  The banner hung in a basement hallway for a time. Then it was rolled up and stashed in a storage room. 

End of the oasis idea.  Except I couldn't quite let it go. 

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