I can’t tell you the number of times already this week where I have found myself recalling images, sounds, and moments from our service of worship this past Sunday! I saw the room filled with the beloved community: old friends and new members, saints and sinners alike. I heard a “family of faith, seeking to know Christ and make Him known,” proclaiming unanimous affirmation of language that mobilizes us “to practice bold love of God and neighbor and boundless compassion for all people,” statements of mission and vision that clarify and amplify our collective voices in response to God’s unique call upon us. I felt the stirring only music can give, throngs of voices and instruments united in song proclaiming God’s good news. I watched person after person stream down the aisles — first, to partake in the bread of life and cup of grace; then, to claim Christ and First Baptist Church on Fifth as their own. I relaxed as John reminded us all that even if the rest of our lives unfold relentlessly on schedule, the worship of God and the movement of God’s Spirit invite us to a rhythm ‘off the clock.’ Again and again, I was lifted again by Love — love for our dear friend and minister David, love he so boldly lives of God, for God, and through God, and Love that sends us forth into the world.
Even after Jack Shearin told me that Sunday’s worship was perhaps the longest in First Baptist’s history (to which I proudly responded, “I’m glad we made history!”), Sunday for me was a snapshot of how I see God at work in our midst. From all walks of life, all ages and life stages, and all across the political and cultural landscape, we worshiped the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ in spirit and truth: fully, boldly, wholeheartedly, and with courage. It was the kind of worship that makes a pastor’s heart sing… not just her lips!
We’ll gather again this Sunday to do the work of worship, the leitourgia (Greek for “worship,” from which comes the word “liturgy,” literally “the work of the people”) guiding our rhythms of gathering and sending, praise and adoration, confession and assurance, proclamation and peace-passing. In this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we’ll hear the familiar reminder of John 3:16 — of God loving all this world with such abandon, that God sent forth Jesus to move into our neighborhoods, pitching his tent right in the midst of human life and sharing in it with us so that through him, we might have life abundant and eternal. What better promise of faith upon which to shape our worship!
Together in the work of Love,
Ps – I hope you have marked your calendars for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC)’s Annual Gathering, March 15-17! We are so fortunate that it will be held this year close by at Knollwood Baptist Church. I’ll be there, and I hope everyone of you reading this now will find a compelling piece of the three-day event to attend! This year’s theme is called “Fit Church: Nurturing Healthy Congregations.” It takes all of us to make our beloved community a “fit church,” so I look forward to learning alongside you! You can learn more and register at this link: http://www.cbfnc.org/events/fitchurch.