Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 8:1 all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel. 8:2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 8:3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 8:5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 8:6 Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 8:8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. 8:9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Can you imagine the scene from Nehemiah –?

Let me break it down –

First, they asked for the holy reading – and the women were included !

They were expecting the usual typical reading / hearing experience – Ezra opened the book in front of them –which only becomes significant when they get something unexpected.  The scripture says that the words were read “with interpretation” And that the people were overwhelmed.  Ezra, their priest and scribe, blessed the Great God and the people responded – “Amen, amen,” lifting up their hands! And then they bowed their heads and worshipped.   Apparently that was and unusual reaction !  It also says that the governor, priest/scribe and teachers all agreed.  Now, in my experience,  that’s something special as well.  Did I mention the people were all overwhelmed?

Soooo   the governor proclaimed this to be a holy day – the day of the Lord! Proclaimed — right then and there –       On-the-spot! No asking permission, no time for second-guessing, No waiting to see if the majority would be in favor of the proclamation   – After all of this, the people were told to go back to their usual lives – Eat, drink and be merry –AND    wait for it     to  SHARE the wealth with “those for whom nothing is prepared.”  They were told to “Go with joy in their hearts –this day is holy to our LORD “ Wowee-Wow!  I’m getting a picture  that something significant happened there. ~ ~ Maybe not quite Pentecost, but pretty important nonetheless.~~  Be joyful!   Share ! I would have pegged this as a New Testament lesson –  It’s Jesus-worthy!

Let’s look again – Break it down even further — All people were included, those who might usually differ— agreed  !       Everyone in attendance knew they were part of a God moment  and      the end result was joy.            I like it!

So what’s it say for us in 2016?

We’ve been talking about “finding our joy” at Faith Church for years.

One time, Pastor Merry brought a group of us together to read a book and discuss possible changes to our committee structure.

We expected the usual / typical book reading and group discussion.

We thought we’d debate whether it’s good or bad to have 3 year terms that forcibly rotate people on and off committees.

We came away instead with a dream that serving the church could be a joyful experience. We wanted to remove – or at least diminish – the “it’s your duty” pushed-into-service, old-school church committee structure with three year terms. We wanted people to be able to choose to serve where and when they felt good about serving – and step back when it became a burden. It sounded great – in theory – And I can say after living into it – that it’s easier said than done!

This plan leaves holes – gaps –it’s scary, anxiety-producing stuff!

Happily I can report that Pastor Kristabeth fully supports the shift from duty-oriented Nominations to Spiritual gifts-oriented Lay Leadership which encourages everyone to know, develop and offer to serve based on where they find joy in their service to God.

The church leaders also recognize that each of you has skills – things you CAN easily do, sometimes these are things that others find difficult. We want you to tell us what’s enjoyable for you so that when we have an open position, or a request from a ministry team for someone to fill a particular gap, we’ll know where to start.

We typically start by looking at the skills needed to complete the task, We consider the spiritual gifts which would allow someone to find joy in serving in this capacity -we pray about it – And then we ask people to join us in ministry, often by highlighting the gifts we see which helped us to believe  this could be a good fit. (you’ll hear a story like that in just a few minutes.) I’d love to fill every opening this way – [I’d love to fill every opening period!]       But it’s just not that easy. There are times when we have very real needs to “get er done” as Dave Baker would say. And we believe we have the people we need right here!

Now, I implied earlier that “duty” isn’t what we strive for as our main motivational tool, so I want to ALSO say that duty isn’t all bad. I realize that a task – a job – sometimes reboots us. Having a different focus / view somehow refreshes  and resets our outlook on life.

Allow me to share a personal reflection  about working at the annual church bazaar. Apologies up front to Valerie, for admitting that this isn’t my absolute favorite activity.

Bear with me, Val, hear what’s in my heart…

Years ago I decided that being an early morning cashier would be the least burdensome of the choices of jobs. I like the rush – the people – counting the money… it’s something I don’t do in my regular daily life so it takes over my brain.       This is a good thing, it helps the time go by quickly..

When I agree – year after year – to do my duty, to be cashier at the bazaar, I am often surprised by the resulting benefits. Sometimes, doing something we “CAN” easily do,  because of our particular skill set, even if seen as a duty, can be changed by God into a blessing.

This year in particular, I connected in a meaningful way with at least two people I don’t usually see – resulting in my going home with an unexpectedly, especially-warmed heart!   Working at the bazaar provides God moments – lots of them. If you need more God moments in your life, I recommend signing up to work at a church event!

~ now this brings me quite nicely to today’s opportunity to expand your chances of having more God moments ~ We’re going to hand out ornaments for our blessing tree. We want you to read through the list included in your bulletin today.

The ministry team leaders helped to create this list of jobs, tasks, and projects, These 100 ideas are just a start… They are all ministry opportunities for you to consider. What you do with the ornament is add your name and contact info. Then, as you read through the list if you have any spark of interest at all in an item you add the corresponding number to your ornament.

Hopefully everyone will find at least  one number to add – something you aren’t already doing  to serve Faith,  The numbers you add indicate that you are willing to consider serving your church in at least one new way.

Note that I didn’t say you’d be stuck with the thing that peaked your interest. We realize that you may need a bit more  information before you can be sure that  this new thing will bring you joy.

Being willing to talk about it is a first step toward accepting a challenge,  to engage in or expand  your own personal ministry….

I hope you make a choice to expand your service  and our church ministry  by using your abilities and/or your spiritual gifts to serve in a new way.

Read through the list, expecting to feel the wind of the Holy Spirit. At some point, soon,  someone already serving in that ministry area -or someone who is very aware of the needs in that ministry area- will get in touch with you.  With some discussion,  you will be able to determine if that spark can become a flame.

When your ornament is ready,  Bring it to the tree and hang it or leave it at the roots.      (or give to a kid to hang for you)

While you are reviewing the list and creating your ornament, Hear some inspirational comments from some of our current team leaders….