One of the questions I’m asked most often these days is, “How do you like the new place?”
“It’s good to have a home; our own ‘Promised Land’,” I tell them, “but our work is just beginning!”
Many readers will recall that in August of 2014, St. Elias’s beloved building sustained structural damage to its rafters. The weight of the roof shifted to the walls and started to push them out. The building was immediately closed.
This left us homeless.
We were like the Hebrews who had fled Egypt in the great Exodus. We found ourselves wandering in the desert with only God to lead us.
This was a time a self-reflection, and we came face-to-face with God in our struggle.
Then, last December, our community collectively decided to purchase the old Grandview Methodist Church across from Finley Hospital.
We moved in this past January and it officially became the new “St. Elias.”
It is wonderful not to have to setup all the liturgical items (the censer, the chalice, the paten, the cross, the candles, the gospel book, the epistle book…) every Sunday. And then pack it all away after the service.
And, it’s superb to finally have a place to call home. A place of our own, where we can worship the living Trinity and invite others to pray with us.
Now that we have moved into our new home, we’ve entered into our own Promised Land.
But, I can’t help but recall the rest of the scriptural story.
As the Hebrews were preparing themselves to enter the land flowing with milk and honey, Moses, their great leader, gathered them together and urged them to not forget God.
“If you remember God and listen to His wise words, you will receive blessings,” he told them. “But, if you forget God, disobey him, and ignore your neighbors, then you will be cursed.”
Yikes! Quite a wakeup call!
Yet, it speaks to a very human tendency.
Some of the Hebrews believed that once they’ve been saved from slavery in Egypt, they could live their lives as they wished.
But freedom in the Promised Land was about something much more.
It was about forming an ongoing relationship with God. It was about learning to love him and learning to spread God’s love to those around them.
I think all too often we also think this way.
We think we’ve got the big project finished, but we don’t realize that our journey is just beginning.
Marriage is a great example. Once the ceremony is over, we think we’re good to go, but marriages are a lot of work. It’s about a lifetime of learning to grow closer to our spouse through love.
And for us, at St. Elias, it’s the same.
We may have crossed the threshold, entered into the Promised Land, but our work is just beginning.
Now it’s time to grow in our love of God, learning to worship Him fully: with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Now it’s time to grow in our love for our neighbors, becoming more involved in the larger Dubuque community.
We’ve come over a large hurdle – and glory to God for His faithfulness to our community – but our journey is just beginning.
P.S. Join us on our Journey!
St. Elias the Prophet (419 N. Grandview Ave., Dubuque)
Saturdays: Great Vespers, 4 pm
Sundays: Orthros, 9 am; Divine Liturgy, 10 am
Or find your nearest Orthodox Church by clicking here
(This post originally appeared in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, June 24th, 2017)