Surely Goodness and Love will Follow…

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

Two days, two worship services. They could not have been more different. They could not have been more similar.

First, on Saturday, I enjoyed the blessing of being in the sanctuary at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church for the first time since Rebekah retired 13 months ago. The occasion – the funeral service for Jamie Burwell – was at once both sad and joyous, as the church marked the passing of one of the most authentic and genuinely gracious human beings I have ever had the privilege of knowing. It was a celebration of a life lived both well and faithfully.

The church was full and the spirit was positive, and it felt good and natural to be there with our WFPC sisters and brothers. To see so many faces Rebekah and I love; to walk into the church and feel that familiar buzz; to hear the story a full sanctuary tells about the life and the ministry that is taking place; it was – for want of a better word – delicious.

– Sunday morning at Hudson

Then, Sunday, Rebekah and I enjoyed worship with the good people at our current church home, at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian in North Raleigh. Hudson is a more traditional space, but it too is filled with the love of God, and people who are committed to following Jesus in every way.

Here’s what struck me:

  • Both services told the story of the transformational love of God.
  • Both pointed to the power of faith-based community.
  • Both pointed to the victory of life over death.
  • Both acknowledged both the beauty and the cost of discipleship.
  • Both challenged each one of us to live more faithfully in response to what we learned/experienced in church that day.
  • Both reminded me of the fragility of life and at the same time the strength of the Good News Story.
  • Both encouraged me in my faith.

Saturday’s message focused on “Surely God’s goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23). Sunday’s was built around Jesus’ unsettling declaration (Luke 14) that, “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

God of Grace:

The other really important consistent thread from both worship services was this: Our Creator is Lord of both grace and judgement; yet the witness of the scriptures has made it abundantly clear that we are expected to throw our weight behind God’s initiatives of grace, and to leave the judgement part to Jesus.

The good news of the Gospel story is our responsibility to live out loud. That is the story that was told so eloquently in the life of Jamie Burwell; and living that way – carrying that cross if you will – was such a radical departure from the status quo that Jesus paid for such grace with his life.

– Rebekah and Derek: advocates of the Good News!

Living the good news of Jesus – and living like we mean it – is still such a radical departure that un-grace has taken a foothold in too much of what is advertised as Christianity today

So I am grateful to be associated with local faith communities where the truth is not only taught, but lived.

Two days, two very different worship services; one consistent – insistent – message of grace. – DEREK

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