Sunday, August 31, 2014

Joy in Worship!

"Don't know where you worshiped this morning, but I know you couldn't have had a more moving, complete joy than we have at Second Baptist!"

Yes, I tweeted that in the middle of the worship service at Second Baptist Church this morning. Pastor Joseph Stone, Jr., had already given the go-ahead. He sometimes says things so striking that he says, "Go ahead, tweet that!" Preachers often are led to say something in the middle of their sermons that they had not worded quite the same way in their preparation. Then, we say, "Thank you, Holy Spirit," and proceed with the inspiring thought that just came to us.

Before we had gotten to the sermon, I was moved to tweet that thought. Let me give you the rationale.

We had had a baptism of a new member who did not have the same skin tone or ethnic identity as the majority of the congregation. [Note that I self-consciously do not use the word "race," since I believe there is only one race, the human race.] #diversity

The call to worship had been followed by a scripture reading and impassioned prayer by the deacons.

We had a vocal and piano solo by Ms. Freddie Norwood, a gifted musician whose voice was made for singing.

We had a precision drill team marching and dancing to the theme of Romans 16:20, "God . . . shall bruise Satan under your feet!"

We had a children's choir accompanying the adults with a tremendously moving, harmonious rendition of Amazing Grace.

And, when I tweeted, we were in the middle of the exposition of the text in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas were in jail for healing a demon-possessed girl, and were praying and singing praises to God.

It only got better as Pastor Stone began the application section of the message, where we were admonished to look at our own situations and consider whether we were praising and praying in those mental prisons (thought patterns) we lock ourselves into, or find ourselves in.

The invitation was responded to by more than 100 souls who indicated their desire for change (repentance) in their lives.

After more prayer, we ended the fifth Sunday service with fellowship and food. Normally, it is dinner on the grounds, but, because of the soaking rain from the previous day, and lack of indoor space, box lunches had been prepared and were distributed to all.

As I said, " . . . I know you couldn't have had a more moving, complete joy than we have at Second Baptist!" this morning.

[Doctrinally-aware readers might notice there was not a communion service, and suggest the joy might have been more complete if we observed the ordinance. Maybe so. But the Lord said, as often as you do this, giving us latitude.]

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I love you, Dad.

My wife and I were at the famous "Little Dooey Restaurant," in Starkville, MS, home of Mississippi State University, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw two men walk towards the drink refill station, just around the corner from us, but within earshot.

Then I heard those words, "I love you, Dad."  Their conversation seemed to indicate one of them lived in Starkville, and the other was visiting him, probably coinciding with a baseball game or some other university event.

I began thinking, I have never said those four words, "I love you, Dad."

You see, my father had died in an airplane crash when I was an infant, so I never saw his relationship to his father or heard it express itself in words.And he was never a present reality for me to speak to.  And I don't remember even meeting my grandparents on my father's side, but I think my older brother tried to seek them out one time.  They were as dead to me as my father was, for all practical purposes.

This was a generational curse, as well, because my own children would never see or hear me say, "I love you, Dad," to my father, so their experience would be just as void of that generation-linking pattern as mine was.  And unless they had some outside influence, they would not know how to tell me that same sentence.

I am a member of a church that has many fatherless families.  Those children will also lack the personal experience of hearing and learning to say, "I love you, Dad."

Perhaps this is why my image of my heavenly father is so vague.  Without having experiences with an earthly father that would teach me about a father-son bond, what does "Our father who art in heaven" mean to me? Merely an abstraction, words without meaning, words without feelings. Words without touch.

How can pastors minister to sons of fatherless families?  How can they teach them about a heavenly father without bringing up images of the never-present father, the deadbeat dad?

How can these fatherless sons identify with the church whose image is portrayed as the bride of a husband, when they have not seen an earthly family where the father loves the mother and the mother submits to and respects her husband?

God, we need help!