Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unlimited salt!

"Whatever the priest Ezra, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and unlimited salt."
(Ezra 7:21-22)

Midway through the book of EZRA, we get to meet the man for which the book is named.  Ezra is a scribe of Hebrew descent, living in Babylon.  Evidently, he's in really good standing with the Babylonian King, Artaxerxes... for he is empowered to take a core group back to Israel to rebuild their temple.  But the king doesn't just "let him leave" the place where Ezra & his companions have been living in captivity for over 75 year... he also sends Ezra with a few "parting gifts" (aka supplies).
  • 100 talents of silver = approximately 7,500 pounds of silver...
  • 100 cors of wheat = 650 bushels...
  • 100 baths of wine & oil = 6,100 gallons each...
(I love the unlimited salt part.  Can you imagine going down into the "Salt Storage Room" and trying to figure out how much to bring along with you?  "Let's take two of those big Costco-sized storage drums.  No, wait... how much do you think a camel can hold?!?")

The king believed in Ezra's integrity, passion, purpose & faithfulness - otherwise he wouldn't have sent him off with such blessings.  How empowering that must have felt for Ezra.  It didn't mean there'd be absolutely no problems - but it was a great start.  Also, Ezra made sure that he and his traveling companions began their journey home only AFTER preparing themselves spiritually for the endeavor (prayer & fasting).

We at Aiea UMC are embarking on a new chapter of our history next month.  We're launching the process of starting a House Church ministry - with the desire to bring people together in small groups of caring communities, that otherwise wouldn't normally be drawn to a traditional church setting.  Instead, they'll meet in homes - growing closer as friends (and quite possibly eventually) followers of Jesus.

As we begin, we've been blessed by the larger UMC denomination. Our Conference Board of Congregational Development has granted us close to $125K for our first 18 months of ministry.  We still need to put in another 25-30% of the funds to meet our total budget, but what a wonderful start!  We have been entrusted with Conference resources (not something that happens everyday).  It's truly exciting!  It's also a bit scary.  Will it work out the way we're envisioning it?  Will people's lives be transformed?  Will we be up to the task?  Questions, I'm sure, Ezra & Co. pondered as they started out from Babylon.

In the meantime... all I can say is, "pass the salt, please!"

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