Today, as the family stays home from church and missing the fellowship of the saints, I am reflecting on our experience last Sunday. Last Sunday was the first Sunday of my sabbatical where I have no ministry responsibilities, and my family and I chose to worship at North Lexington Baptist Church here in town. We arrived and found what could probably be found in so many small town Christian churches, a warm and inviting congregation trying to leverage their gifts and talents with limited means in order to enact and enhance the worship of the Triune God. There was nothing splashy yet nothing seemed half-hearted either. There was the older gentleman who, once finding out where our home church was, thanked me with what appeared to be deep earnestness for our church’s monetary gift to NLBC in support of their program that gives food away to the less fortunate of our community every Tuesday. Then there was the lady who is my waitress every Friday morning when I meet a few guys for breakfast. She knows we are a group of Christian men (playfully calls us all a “bunch of heathen”), and so we both give and receive prayer requests with her. Seeing her worship in her home church environment with that same twinkle in her eye was a real gift because it helped remind me that she’s the same woman on Friday mornings as she is on Sunday mornings. No pretense. No facades. Just another Christian woman presenting her body as a living sacrifice and seeking the smile of the Father in Christ.
And then the pastor of NLBC declared the Word of God from 1 Corinthians 1 to the congregation. It was during his preaching that my tears kept trying to get away from me. Again, there was no great showmanship. There were no new and deeper insights into the preached passage. But here was a man, called by Christ through His Church, to break the bread of life each week so that the flock could be fed. And feed us he did. There, in the middle of our worship, Christ was meeting His saints by the power of His Spirit through the Word. We were encouraged, warned, reminded, rebuked, promised… and I had nothing to do with any of this. The closest thing to control I had was the steering wheel in our mini-van on the way to the church. This was pure receiving. Pure gift.
This event has exploded in my mind this past week multiple times, not because of any outwardly extraordinary elements we found there but because the fact that Holy Spirit attends the ordinary means of grace is extraordinary indeed. In one sense, people are quite ordinary. But people filled with the Holy Spirit who are drawn together in fellowship across church traditions through participation in worship become extraordinary. In one sense, human speech is ordinary. But human speech uttered in a sermon grounded in the inspired Word, delivered to repentant people is extraordinary. But such is the pattern of a God who raises the dead and who invites broken vessels to be His extraordinary power clothed in the ordinary.
(awesome photo taken by Josiah Sink and shamelessly poached from his FB page)