September 8, 2009

A Cause That Unifies and Motivates
by Pastor George Van Alstine

When people are unified around a cause, they can accomplish some pretty special things. ABC’s 75th Anniversary was an example of this. Because we were all agreed that this deserved to be a really memorable event, we joined our talents and energy to make it happen. People who hadn’t worked together before and didn’t even know each other very well, joined to create good memories.

A more recent example is the way people in the Altadena area have been fully focused on the Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest. At first, we all rooted for the residents and firefighters in the Altadena foothills. Many prayers were raised on their behalf. People called the church to ask how they personally could help. There were offers of money, shelter, water and protective masks. When the immediate threat to homes was reduced, our attention was turned to efforts to save the historic treasures on Mount Wilson. Regular email reports from the site were complemented by live pictures from the UCLA Towercam. We were able to feel that we were part of the fire team clearing brush and setting backfires. This shared experience had the effect of unifying us, at least temporarily, as a community.

The Old Testament contains an interesting example of a community unified around a common cause in the fifth century BC. The people of Israel were scattered and demoralized after years of defeat and captivity. Their leadership had evaporated, and people had splintered into little self-interest pockets. The City of Jerusalem was practically abandoned by those who had previously lived there.

From hundreds of miles away, Nehemiah heard about the sorry state of his homeland. In spite of living in Persian exile, he had managed to come into a position of some privilege in the kings’s court. He decided he might have the power and position to do something about this: He approached the king and was granted temporary authority to be Israel’s governor during a rebuilding phase

Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah quickly identified the major problem in the city: her walls were badly damaged, and there was no protection from real and potential enemies. So he gathered all the tribal leaders and folk from the nearby villages and made a very inspiring speech. This gave the defeated people hope for the future and a shared goal to work toward:

“I told them the hand of God had been gracious upon me and also the words that the king had spoken to me. Then they said, ‘Let’s start building!’ So they committed themselves to the common good.” (Nehemiah 2:18)

Nehemiah organized all the people, assigning different wall sections to various families and groups. This makeshift construction team operated like professionals:

“So we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together . . . , for the people had a mind to work.” (4:6)

In 52 days, the project was done, and the city was secure. It wasn’t long before people started to move back in. Merchants set up shop and the economy began to flourish. All because

“The people had a mind to work.”
“They committed themselves to the common good.”

At ABC, we have an opportunity to renew our commitment to the Lord’s work here, and to one another. It will come this Sunday, September 13. We will celebrate the launch of our fall season, after summer vacations are over, inviting our friends to join us in our fresh start in this ministry of worship, fellowship and growth. I hope you will help demonstrate that the people of ABC “have a mind to work” together “for the common good.”