Each Sunday, I enter the doors with a soul ready to receive even a pinch of God’s grace. Some Sundays, He really outdoes himself. He leaves me with experiences I don’t think words can quite pin down.
Today worship began, the prelude came through the organ pipes, filling the sanctuary with beautiful, complex chords. People briskly walked in, with the cold still on their cheeks, into a space filled with warmth. Sunlight, red, green and gold streamed in through the stained glass.
This particular Sunday the Pastor presented the new Elders and Deacons. One by one, men and women filed in to his left and to his right. Before ordaining and praying for them, he asked those in the congregation who previously served as Elders and Deacons to come up to lay their hands and pray alongside him. The floorboards of the sanctuary groaned, as the weight of almost half (of a very large) congregation made their way to the front. I’m not quite sure anyone realized before just how many were in our midst. Men, women, some with physical disabilities, some with children, some with grandchildren, from every stage of life, came forward. The power of the Spirit in this growing crowd moving forward, could surely be felt by every soul. There was beauty in this diverse community of believers, with diverse opinions, lives, and experiences, coming down the aisles, to fill up what is often an empty space on most Sundays, by the baptismal fount. Just knowing that if you had looked around on any given Sunday morning into friends and strangers eyes, more than half of them have committed their lives in such deep ways to following after a risen savior… There aren’t quite words to describe it.
After the ordination, children paradoxically filled up the space where elders and deacons stood moments before. What typically consists of a short small sermon for little ears, this time was a prayer. Our pastor asked those children to stand at the front and look back, and the elders and deacons to stand and look toward the front as well. The children prayed aloud. The power felt in the tiny voices of children praying for adults, for adults to be led by Christ, for grown ups to be blessed and protected by a holy triune God, all this coming from the mouths of sweet, innocent children is hard to describe.
I often hear people say, “Why do I need to go to church? I’m a good person after all.”… Most times, I don’t know entirely what to say. I don’t know how to tell them that it’s not about where you stand on some subjective moral milepost. It’s an invitation to a relationship with the Creator. It’s a chance to be part of a community of faith, of followers who believe in Christ’s call to experience God’s radical love. It’s fellowship with young and old alike, the inspiration of lives following after Jesus’s radical idea of grace, mercy and peace for all. It’s knowing you are a child of God and no matter where you are, you’re blessed beyond measure by a God who relentlessly pursues you in perfect love. It’s peace that passes all understanding. And as I reflect on the indescribable nature of a God who meets us in the old, in the young, at the baptismal fount, and at a table for communion, I think I understand why I struggle to communicate how powerful the experience is. It’s because I serve a God who transcends human experience, human time, human nature, and human language. A God who made himself incarnate, to live, teach, die and rise so that we might know Him better. A God whose very nature cannot be exaggerated, He must sometimes simply be felt in the presence of community with others. A God who transcends all, but who surely came down to meet with us. And, who to this very day, still does.