ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, YOU THINK YOU KNOW...
It's been fun over the last 48 hours as Kathy and I have heard from more than a few about what people who were in worship this past Sunday experienced. Honestly, we have enjoyed processing a lot of these things, because it is making us all reconsider and rethink our approach to the most essential event in any congregation's life.
The statement that seems to be buzzing is along the lines of, "I didn't know that was going to happen," or, "If I had only known..."
One of the biggest misunderstandings about worship in our culture is the idea that each worship service is a self-contained event that is not connected in any way to what went on before or what is coming up next.
Another big misunderstanding about worship is something that we touched on during our Maundy Thursday celebration (another event where the "I had no idea" line was heard,) namely, the idea that worship is about us and what we 'get out of it' (an idea that has no scriptural foundation at all.)
A third thing about worship that is misunderstood (that goes along with the point immediately preceding this one) is the fact that worship is about the people of God gathering to worship God, to encounter the risen Christ, to hear the Word read and proclaimed, to respond to that which was read and proclaimed, and to go out again to live as Christ's missionaries in the world.
The final thing that I want to mention about this (for it is by far not the last thought to have on this topic) involves the idea that we should know beforehand what is going to happen.
So, what does all this have to do with what happened this past Sunday?
Well, I suspect those gathered will never forget the sight of our own Jerry Huffman, who has been a regular attendee of our services going back to our days at the museum, responding to God's work in his life from birth, responding to the word that has been read and proclaimed in this church since the museum, responding to the community of grace that has surrounded him here, coming forth to receive the sacrament of baptism at 81 years of age, assisted by his sister and his friends Marge and Ann. The tender, sweet joy of the moment that we all shared as we were reminded in the introduction to the service that baptism is God's work, the same work whether in infant Emily we baptized on Easter Sunday or the baptism of a grown man who has lived a long life; as Jerry answered affirmatively the historic vows found in our baptism liturgy; as we, the people of the church, renewed our vows of membership; as we all professed our belief in God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ his only son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit; as we joined in attitude of prayer over the water; as we stood in awe as the water touched him; as we welcomed him as the newest member of the family of Christ; yes, dear friends, it was a truly special moment for us all, especially on the heels of Kathy's walking us through the introduction of our newest series on grace by giving us an overview of our Wesleyan understanding of grace in her homily.
What's more tricky for us to understand, though, is that on many Sundays prior to this one, Jerry came, fellowshipped, worshipped with the community of North Cross, and through his participation in the worship of this community week in and week out, God did some truly transformational work that led Jerry to this simply sacred moment that so deeply impacted us all in that moment and for all eternity.
THAT, my friends, is why every Sunday we gather for worship is vitally important. Not so that we don't miss the unexpected like Jerry baptism. To think this way would trivialize worship and baptism.
No, on any given Sunday, in ways visible and invisible, as we gather for worship and community, we really don't know what God is up to, we really don't know how God is looking to work in our heart or in the hearts of those with whom we gather.
Who knows what God's got in store for us this Sunday? Come on and let's find out together, so we don't miss a thing!
Grace and Peace,
P.S. Oh, and one more thing about Jerry - he arrives for worship very early to sit and listen to the music team rehearse. He tells me every Sunday that he loves it all - the choir, the band, the youth - and how seeing & hearing the effort they put into leading worship makes it all the more special. Hmm...