One of the things that I have never confessed on this blog is that I am a worship junkie. I can’t get enough …. especially if I am not preaching.
I generally only have one complaint… what is up with the pews? Hard, uncomfortable, too low, crooked on an angle so you have to turn your head to see the ….. anyhow, once the complaining stops. I am always blessed. More than that, I am extremely humbled because I know that there have been hundreds of people over the years who have braved the church pews to hear me preach. I honor that.
And so for the last three weeks I have squirmed and wiggled in church pews and been blessed beyond measure. Being footloose and fancy free so to speak, I have gone to a different church every Sunday and the one thing that has been consistent is the warm welcome that I received. Warm handshakes. Broad smiles. Hugs. I have been welcomed and it is good to see that the Body of Christ knows how to practice hospitality.
The first Sunday out of the gate found me in a congregation where a friend of mine is the minister (you will notice a theme happening here soon). After the warm welcome I was invited to join the lunch group–you get asked once, from now on you just let them know your coming and they’ll save you a seat–I went. What a blessing. I explained my gluten allergy to the waitress and she said, “ME TOO” then she told me that she had brought some spectacular sausages for her own lunch and had the chef cook me up one. It was delicious and several of us at the table got a chance to taste it. What a blessing. But before the lunch…came the worship. The choir was inspiring. The board’s thoughtful reminder that they were in a deficit on the budget was met with an overwhelming response. Couldn’t get near the ticket board after worship… (no it was not a lottery). The sermon spoke to me on so many levels. My friend had spoken at the anniversary of one of my congregations the Sunday before it closed. He shared what he had said. I was touched. I cried. I was blessed. What an awesome predestined plan to be in that place.
The next week I found myself at another congregation whose minister was a …. yep a friend of mine. I was greeted warmly and hugged on my way through the door, and then I slipped into the pew beside some people from the other charge that closed a year and a half ago. I had not seen them since. They were shocked… and pleased. We chatted and caught up, then after worship they were meeting another couple from that congregation for lunch and invited me along. They were shocked and pleased. I must say I felt loved. But before that worship. Many years ago I had worked with this congregation when they were seeking a minister. One of the things we did at that time was to set up the nursery in a corner of the sanctuary. It was still there. Children played, not always quietly…and were welcomed. The choir was awesome, the sermon thought provoking and insightful. I was richly blessed that day.
Yesterday, I worshiped in yet another congregation. And yes, the minister there was a friend of mine. I was greeted by name and welcomed. I slipped in beside someone I knew. and not long after someone else I knew came over to join us. It was nice to worship among friends. And then the choir….bogey woogied their way through an African hymn. The joy expressed was amazing, but I thrilled to see a lovely elderly woman grinning from ear to ear and swinging her hips. The congregation was remarkably a place of joy. And another great sermon that inspired a lot of thought.
I am grateful to have had this experience, because after the long sad journey over the last year and a half as first one and then the other of my two congregations closed, I have known moments of discouragement. I have wondered if the church is getting too old and worn out, both as a people and as an institution. But what I have discovered is that there is life, and hospitality and joy. The Holy Spirit moves, powerfully. I feel a sense of peace, knowing that when I learn where God is next leading me, that I can once again know the joy of ministering with people who have life, hospitality, joy and among whom the Holy Spirit moves powerfully. This is my heart’s desire.