The first thing I noticed when the hub and I walked into church Sunday morning was the joy. The place was abuzz with joyful greetings and joyful conversations.
We were visiting the church affiliated with the Christian school at which the hub is an administrator. It was their first Sunday in their newly remodeled worship center so we went in support.
The second thing I noticed was the diversity.
Diversity of color, diversity of socioeconomic status, and I suppose diversity of political opinions.
But I heard absolutely no political talk.
And that was refreshingly welcome.
The words, “I’m blessed” came from the lips of those who have a lot, materially speaking, and from the lips of those who have little.
It reminded me of the wonderful diversity at Saturday morning BSF leaders’ meetings. Everyone is “blessed” there, too.
How is it that both these diverse groups can meet on Sundays – and brutally early on Saturdays – black, white, comfortable, struggling, liberal, conservative – with such joy?
I pondered and concluded that the joyful gather around a person – a Savior – rather than an ideology.
Or a need.
Studying John 6 these past few weeks, I noticed that some who were following Jesus wanted a political leader, they wanted to make him king. Others wanted free bread and fish.
They wanted Jesus to provide for their political and physical needs while all He wanted to talk about was their spiritual needs. So they started grumbling.
And many quit following.
“You don’t want to leave, too, do you?,” Jesus asked the Twelve.
“Where else would we go?,” responded Peter, “You have the words of life.”
Ah, to spend a couple of hours worshiping with those who want nothing from Jesus except life.
The pastor, who was reared in Africa – the son of medical missionaries – lived and served 22 years of his adult life as a church planter and leadership developer in Uganda.
“Worshipers in Uganda wouldn’t like these screwed down seats,” he said, “they’d want to be able to push them aside and dance.”
He was preaching Psalm 100:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
He pointed out that the Hebrew word for “Know” here is not restricted to mental activity. It is a visceral knowledge that goes deep into the emotions, into the “deepest stomach.”
That’s the kind of knowledge that elicits push-those-chairs-aside-and-dance worship.
The kind of knowing that the Lord is God that causes a diverse people to all feel blessed. To stand together joyfully.
Toward the end of the sermon the pastor mentioned his little granddaughter.
What kind of a world will she grow up in?, he wondered.
But then he caught himself.
She’ll grow up in a world with God.
God never changes – even as the world changes.
The same God who was with him and his family while they were living and ministering amidst wars in Uganda will be with her, too.
She’ll experience God in ways that he has not because she’ll experience Him in a different culture, a different context.
I liked that thought.
I like the idea that the same God is moving just as faithfully and just as powerfully in every generation, but in new and different ways, come what may.
It’s His story, not ours.
So why are we demanding, grabbing, protesting, threatening, terrorizing, accusing, slandering, backbiting, worrying, panicking when it’s His story?
May we simply gather in church and, God help us, as a nation around the One who created us all.
P.S. Spent a couple of hours this morning cleaning gum off the bottom of lab tables. Ew. Don’t stick your gum under your desk/table, youngsters, ‘cuz one day somebody’s momma is gonna’ have to scrape it off.