Enough people attend our church to justify two Sunday morning meetings. We average around 160 at the 8:30 “Contemporary Worship”, and 240 for the 11:00 “Traditional.” It makes good sense to offer the two worship styles, and seating 400 people simply won’t work at the one time…
… Unless, that is, we schedule a special event like a 50th Birthday Celebration.
So we squeezed the 16-piece Praise Band, the Praise Chorus and the 30-member chancel choir onto the stage area all together – plus tables of chimes for the “2nd Ringers”. The musical sardines principle, coupled with a few extra chairs and some creative car-pooling, freed up some seats eleswhere and we managed to get everyone in.
Personally, I was completely captured by the experience of community. To play my guitar in the middle of a stage crowded with over 50 people, leading another 350 in the Chris Tomlin arrangement of “Amazing Grace”…. well… words cannot begin to describe. “My chains are gone; I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior, has ransomed me. And like a flood, his mercy rains. Unending love, Amazing Grace….”
I’ve got to tell you, the people who get caught up (pun intended) in “escape theology”, obsessing about rapture and tribulation and the fiery flames of hell – well, they’re missing the whole point of the life, and the beauty, and the grace, and the present reality of redemption.
Yesterday morning, in the epicenter of the living community of faith, I caught the dynamic truth of what it means to love and to be loved in the context of God’s overarching agape. And this morning (Monday), standing in the life-charged reality of the generous reach of God’s mercy, I rest assured.
- Chains? Gone!
- Freedom? I can feel it all the way to my bones!
- Sin? Washed away like a flood!
- Mercy? It rains down!
- Love? Unending!
- Grace? Still amazing!
We had a lot of preachers sitting on the front two rows today. Good people, representing history and Presbytery and the great connectivity of The Church. Rebekah invited John DeBevoise, senior pastor at Palma Ceia Presbyterian in South Tampa, to bring the word.
John preached a great sermon, constructed around the Psalm 27 passage, “Unless the Lord build the house, those who build it labor in vain.” But there was one more thing John brought to the pulpit that communicated more profoundly even that the excellent words he spoke. When John stood up, and he started to get the ball rolling with his opening remarks, he did not hide the fact that he was overwhelmed with the emotion of the occasion. There was something about the koinonia of the experience (κοινωνία, see yesterday’s post, “Birthday part 1”) that grabbed ahold of him.
The reality of the fact of life-charged community filled John’s eyes with tears, and for a moment it threatened to muddle his speech. But – and this was a sensitivity to the moving of the Spirit – John didn’t fight it and he didn’t try to pretend it wasn’t there. He acknowledged what he was feeling, and he stood in front of the crowd without his guard up – witness to the power resident in authentic community.
John’s openness to the Spirit was his real eloquence yesterday morning.
Once again, I can’t help but draw the conclusion that “The Monday Blues” are completely unnecessary when Sunday worship happens in the context of redemptive community.
What a great start to the next 50 years of our history as faithful witnesses to “The Life-charged Life” here in Brandon!
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.