Well, that was an exceptionally rewarding morning. I've been doing a lot of speaking lately - mostly caught up in the frenzy of the new book release - but this morning was especially meaningful because A) I was able to present material I believe in, passionately, to a large number of people in leadership, and B) Because, speaking during worship, I had the opportunity to help set the tone for the day.
It was the Winter Meeting of the Presbytery of Tampa Bay. Preachers and elders from over 70 area Presbyterian congregations were gathered for the quarterly business meeting. Our Presbytery, in a move of incalculable wisdom, always opens with a worship service. Today the service included communion (see picture, above).
Beginning in the context of worship is the only way to attempt to navigate some of the tough issues that can so easily divide. Additionally, when we break bread and drink from the cup as a body, we can't help but realize what holds us together. And that, of course, is the fact that:
- we are all - equally - sinners; and that
- we all - beyond reason - have been the recipients of grace; and that
- we all - without distinction - can live confidently in the knowledge that we are loved and forgiven and free.
Reaching Toward God: I had been invited to bring the message from the context of the Reaching Toward Easter study. So I talked about redemption, restoration, and "the health of the human soul." I presented the idea of taking Lent seriously and of embracing God's sacred rhythm. We were neither designed nor created in a haphazard manner, yet we often sidestep - in a cavalier manner - the cadence, the balance, and the rich harmonies of deliberate spiritual practices.
And as I looked out over the gathering, I didn't see the contentious, the opinionated, the self-righteous or the angry - instead I saw several hundred brothers and sisters, gathered in the joyful knowledge of sins forgiven and hearts set free.
GOD's SPIRIT: I felt, albeit in a markedly Presbyterian fashion, the Spirit of God rest on each head and settle in each soul.
For my text, I read the words Jesus spoke in the presence of Pilate on Good Friday, when everyone was looking for an excuse to haul the Lord off and have him killed:
"If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my Kingdom is not from here."
Listen folks, Jesus said, I'm not from around here. I don't do things the way you would. My values are different. That's why my followers aren't fighting. Fighting isn't what settles things in my Kingdom. What settles things in my Kingdom is self sacrificial love....
Well. That kind of sucks the wind right out of our power-plays, and preemptive motions, and win-lose scenarios, and self-serving bouts of pontificating... doesn't it.
If I can say anything that raises the banner of Christ's "not from around here" Kingdom values, then I'd say that's a good morning's work.
It is so phenomenally exciting to be given the privilege of saying something that might possibly make that kind of a difference. Glory be. Seriously, glory be....