I think what I enjoyed the most was the bright, positive atmosphere of celebration and enthusiastic life. It's not just that I could hear the people singing around me, it's the fact that they were singing with such belief. Not just that the choir did an awesome job with their anthem - Deep River - but that they were singing from their hearts, through their voices and all the way down to their toes!
It was an entire weekend that ran deep, and I have to share just a little about Saturday afternoon:
Our church hosted a small memorial service for the grandson of two of our members. The young man, Chris, died in a car accident in Michigan, and the memorial service was for family in Florida. His parents and girlfriend also travelled down for the event.
It's especially hard when a young life, full with such promise, ends so suddenly and unexpectedly. Rebekah did not know Chris - but she loves his grandparents, and took the time to find out as much as she could about his life and his family. She always does well with funerals and memorials, and I expected a solid message laced with powerful scripture.
Then she started out, "I expect that you have heard a lot of platitudes over the past days and weeks. I'm sure they have been well meant, and that they have even provided some comfort in their own way. But you're not going to hear any this afternoon...."
She proceeded to simply blow us away. She shared hope, she shared love, she shared truth, she shared peace, she shared joy, she shared the good news. The message was gospel. Rebekah built the message around the idea Paul shares in Romans 8, that the entire created order is groaning, waiting for redemption (look it up sometime, Rom 8:22-25)). She drew parallels between giving birth and passing on from this life. The theme of the groan ran through the message like a thread... and so did the irresistible love of God, and pain, and poignancy, and hope, and belief.
There was so much incisive truth in the room that it overwhelmed me. I found myself almost gasping for breath the presence of God was so real, so palpable, so present. There were only 20-25 people there - some agnostic, some believers - but I half expected revival to break out right there in the sanctuary....
Then - Sunday morning - the scripture we looked at in my "Everyday Christianity" adult-ed class was the following, from Colossians 4:
Pray for us that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ... Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
My prayer for all of us is that we proclaim Gospel clearly this week, that we make the most of every opportunity - wisely, and that we are conduits of grace, seasoned with salt.
Too often we substitute platitude where grace is so much more effective - platitudes are insubstantial, while grace deals in truth. Then we back off again and serve our grace unsalted - but even grace can lose it's flavor when we fail to present it with enough of an edge.
Love and hope - DEREK