Herald Journal Columns
June 7, 2004 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Taking a walk in ‘wilderness times’

By Rev. Elizabeth Hadler, Montrose United Methodist Church

On Sunday, May 16, we broke ground at Montrose United Methodist Church for a new building addition to our present church building. What an exciting and emotional occasion this was, to symbolically dig a hole for a project that has been in the works for several years – a little over 20 years to be exact.

This is the next chapter to a story that continues on and leaves us wondering what more exciting things lie ahead, and what does God have in store for us?

I have been the pastor at Montrose since October, so I have not come close to experiencing all the ups and down, trials and tribulations, struggles and joys of the past several years of planning this new building. But I have listened to a variety of stories about how our current building came to be – the work and dedication of many – and the various stages the current project has experienced.

As a minister, I am always amazed at the dedication of so many people in order to continue the work of God. As I envision the past several years of the Montrose Church, it has been much like a walk in the wilderness.

Remember Moses who led the Hebrew people to the Promised Land, only to wander in the wilderness for 40 years? In the midst of Moses and the people wandering, they faced temptations, struggles, joys, sadness – every kind of emotion you could possibly imagine. They wandered in what appeared to be circles quite often, for lack of good maps, good directions, and listening to God.

So often they took one step forward and two steps back, then maybe two steps forward and one step back. When they finally made it to the Promised Land, their very faithful leader, Moses, only got to see the land, for he died before they actually got there.

The Hebrew peoples’ many experiences wandering in the wilderness are not unlike our lives at times. I’m sure we can all think of times when we have felt as though we were wandering without any real direction. Sometimes, it feels like God is missing or hiding, yet the real truth is that we’ve lost touch with God.

As a church, such as Montrose United Methodist Church, takes up a challenge like adding on to a building, it can also be very much like a wilderness experience, at times. There are often many bumps along the road – sometimes what seems like road blocks. Yet the people continue to persevere and not give up, much like the people of Israel in Moses’ day.

The journey to this point of breaking ground for our addition has been a long, difficult one in which people have disagreed, yet sought, at times, to agree to disagree. As we broke ground on May 16, we found the ground to be very, very hard. How symbolic the hardness of the ground was to the journey so many had been on to get to this point in the process.

The little plastic shovels the kids used couldn’t begin to break the hard ground. Only the big, hard shovels could break through the ground, with a person standing on it.

So, too, the commitment in enduring such a project takes a rock solid faith in a God who is directing us to move forward, despite the hard times. And when it has seemed as though God was absent, the truth was, really, that we needed to become more fully in touch with and aware of God’s presence.

So now what? No question, the journey continues – just like the journeys of life. We will (and I hope you will, too) watch the building go up this summer, and it will no doubt look very nice.

But then what? As people of God, we are not called to simply “build a temple” of brick and mortar, but we are called to “build up the Body of Christ – the Church.” The real work of using our new building to expand God’s love, to serve God and others, and to worship God in spirit and in truth begins.

Our doors are wide open to all who desire to come, if you are looking for a church family. Give thanks that God is alive and at work in our lives, day in and day out.

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