A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dave's Deep Thoughts - A Pearl of Great Price

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Sometimes, it only takes a moment,
but that moment can reveal a pearl.

It was 10:45pm.
Rehearsal had ended 45 minutes prior,.
Only a few staff members remained to take care of end-of-day details.

I stepped outside the building.
That’s when I smelled it……
the acrid aroma of smoke.

It wasn’t just the smell of smoke.
It was the smoke that comes from an electrical fire.

I ran inside the building and found the building manager.
He came out and confirmed that it indeed smelled like an electrical fire.

Then we looked up into the night sky and gasped.

For, this wasn’t just any building.
This was our church.
As we gazed upward,
the steeple floodlights cut through clouds of smoke
dancing around the precipice.

We ran back inside and told everyone to leave the building.
The adrenaline began to pump furiously.
Adrenaline rushes bring in far more than just adrenaline.
They escort anxiety, fear, and dread.

As I checked various parts of the building for any remaining dwellers,
thoughts of distress flooded my spirit.
This building was central to so many key events of my life….
baptisms, weddings, funerals,
worship, ministry and fellowship events.

When I was sure that there was no one left,
I returned to my office doorway.
It was then that I heard the building manager bellow from down the hallway,
Get out of the building now!”

That was when I had my moment.
In that moment,
I realized that this might be the last time I would be there.

In that moment, I gazed inside my office and saw a large portion of my life.
It was filled with momentos from past events,
reference books, musical scores, instruments, photographs,
computer hard drives filled with a lifetime of information.

What do you take with you when realize that you may not return?
What do you decide when given only a moment?

This was the reveal of my moment.
I ran to my desk and grabbed my study Bible.

It is 40 years old.
The cover is faded,
the edges of the pages are curled,
sections of it have been released from their binding,
notes written in the margins mostly faded.

To the average eye, it would appear to be something ordinary,
but in that moment, I remembered this book spoke of my pearl of great price.

For each of the activities that I had experienced in this building,
the contents of this book spoke truth.

Promises of new life in baptism,
covenantal vows for marriage,
words of hope when surrendering loved ones back to God,
words of guidance in worship
instruction for how to engage a world which has gone out of control,
prayers in troubled times
songs for times of joy,
and words of life when this frail life ends.

Jesus talks about His kingdom being like a pearl of great price,
a treasure that one would do anything to obtain. (Matthew 13: 44)

What is your pearl of great price?
What is it that you would do anything to keep
because it is core to your being?

We stood outside in the parking lot as fire engines began to flood the parking lot.
We circled and took hands and prayed,
prayed for His will to be done,
and prayed for the strength to accept His will.

Thirty minutes later, we were assured 
that the smoke was coming from another source outside the building.
The building was secure.
But the assurance for me came earlier
knowing that His Word is everlasting.

That Word wasn’t merely the written Word in my hand.
but it is the living Word in my heart.

When you are gathered at table this Thanksgiving,
there will be a moment for you.

Whether a prayer is spoken or not,
there will be a moment for you to remember your pearl of great price.
It is the pearl that if someone yelled “fire”
you would know what to reach for.

Something more valuable than a new job,
or an accomplishment,
or a new possession.

It is something that you know in a moment.
Just don’t let the moment pass you by.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return without watering the earth,
and making it bear and sprout,
and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So shall my Word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me empty.”
                                                Isaiah 55: 10-11a

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