Yeah, I'm pulling out the Old Testament for you today--a section that, if you're like me, you've skimmed through (at best) rather than ponder and meditate upon.
Humor me. Take a little time with me right now.
These chapters share the instructions God gave for the Israelites in pitching their tents around the tabernacle. Three chapters on explicit details! So at first glance, it might make your eyes glaze over and you may end up zipping through the chapters.
However, upon further review, and with your imagination, you can see the picture that Moses describes here. One can imagine Israel camped in the morning, the banners for each tribe flying in the dawning sun. The tabernacle in the middle of this army of tents--the cloud of God's presence right there in the middle of the camp. Remember, this isn't a small group of 10 to 15 tents. This picture is of thousands of tents; it takes a little imagination to consider what this looked like. No doubt, it had to be a strong sight and impactful for all who were part of these gatherings. When they camped, they had the power of knowing they were together as God's chosen people and they knew that God was in the midst of their camp, taking care of them in every way.
In Northeast Indiana, there also appears a small army of folks spread throughout a region. These are people who are part of Lutheran churches and schools where God has promised to tabernacle (a word that means "dwell"). They often seem to be timid in their collective actions as they gather for worship and operate their schools, as they worry about attendance, express concern about meeting budgets and are bothered by the politics of the secular world they live in.
But God is boldly reminding them of His promises. Just as He lived with the Israelites, God also lives with us now. We know this, not because of a cloud or pillar of fire but, because He promises such. "Lo I am with you always," and "Where two or three are gathered in my name," are promises that ring in our ears. And so this little army worships, teaches and serves Northeast Indiana.
Look outside of your tent and reflect on the collective impact we have in our little part of the world. Let's look beyond our church, our school and instead consider what it looks like for us to fly our banners together. There are 4,100 students enrolled in our K-12 schools, and many more in our early childhood centers. Hundreds of teachers, pastors and support staff. Lay leaders who serve on boards and committees.Parents and grandparents who support and encourage. The Lutheran Foundation who looks for ways to impact our region. A seminary with worldwide influence. A counseling program (Cross Connections) and broader social services (LSSI) which use the Gospel to provide healing for families and individuals. A media ministry (Worship for Shut-ins) that reaches people worldwide.Are you getting it? We're not a ragtag, little group.On Wednesday, Eric Doden spoke to principals, pastors and lay leaders of our churches and schools about the vision Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. has for northeast Indiana. It's a bold vision--one that will bring in more jobs and stronger economy, a larger population and an overall infusing of excitement to our area. Eric's message was to "be bold." His excitement was contagious.
What's the excitement like for our message? Do we share an excitement for sharing Jesus with friends, family and neighbors? Isn't Jesus a tad bit more important than population growth and economic growth?
And if you agree that the message of our crucified and risen Lord is worth some excitement, doesn't it also make sense for us to be even bolder? After all, the impact of the Gospel goes beyond a couple of decades of growth. The impact of the Gospel goes into eternity!
Not feeling bold? Look outside your tent and see the banners of your congregation, your daughter and sister congregations. See the presence of our Lord in our region's church steeples. We're not alone. God's promises are sure. He's right here with us--Immanuel.
Join me in being bold.