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.