Monday, March 21, 2011

The Communion of the Saints

Taken during worship at First Presbyterian of Brandon (Spring 2010)
Sometimes it amazes me how much joy I experience simply by being at church every Sunday. I enjoy the details - playing guitar in the Praise Band, teaching my adult Sunday morning class, singing the great hymns, hanging out with all those awesome people, leading my small group - but it's actually the "big picture" that really floats my boat this week.

It happened Sunday morning during the 11:00 "traditional" service (I have quotation marks around the word traditional because, even though we sing familiar hymns, follow a standard service order, use a pipe organ, involve a certain amount of liturgy, and have a robed choir, the experience at still comes off as anything but * traditional!). * What I'm referring to as "traditional" would more properly be expressed as "What people are used to"... or "business as usual"... or "same-old same-old" in the run-of-the-mill protestant congregation. And - duh - we're anything but run-of-the-mill at fpcBrandon!!!

There was a moment this week when a looked around at the room full of people. We were singing "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah" and everyone was standing. I was around three rows back. I looked through the sea of faces and I saw Rebekah ("The Preacher") singing her heart out. I could see the choir singing their hearts out too. I glanced left and I glanced right and - because our pews are set out in a semi-circle - there was no view that wasn't filled with worshippers.

They were people, regular folks, standing together as one and simply being the body of Christ. They were dressed mostly in casual clothes but a few in a coat and tie; they represented every age group you can imagine; they came in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds; they are employed, unemployed, and under-employed; conservative, liberal and in-between. They are just people, but they seemed - in that moment - to emanate a certain light, clear and radiant, and they were animated in a way you don't very often see in a "main-line church".

I looked around. I "stopped time" in my consciousness. It was as if I had enough time in that moment to look almost casually at each person there, thank God for them by name, and then log the memory of their face before moving on to the next family. A good 250 plus people in 11:00 worship, yet I felt intimately connected to each one in the space of one line, during one stanza, during the singing of just the one hymn.

What I experienced was a small glimpse at "The Communion of the Saints." The slowing down of conscious time is not that unusual for me because I am learning to tell time in both chronos and kairos, and this was an example of the juxtaposition of the two. It was a "Kingdom of God" moment. Because the Kingdom of God is not restricted to pie-in-the-sky-when-I-die, but is a present moment reality - something that is made possible when I actively follow Jesus and that is actualized in the context of relationships when the church begins to live as if we really are the Body of Christ.

Lunch - we're always celebrating something!
As the clergy-hubby in this story, I'm privileged to know so many of our church people on a beyond the surface heart level. It comes with the territory (although I do know some clergy spouses who build deliberate walls to stop such intimacy from happening). You see, the transcendent experience I had in church this past Sunday comes - like those graduate-level classes in college - with a prerequisite requirement. This requirement is love.

I honestly believe that my role as The Preacher's Husband will only open me to this quality of blessing to the extent that I am willing to give myself away in terms of love.

I'll let John wrap up this post in his inimitable prose from 1 John 4:
  • God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister
Grace, Peace, and Genuine Love - DEREK

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