What Happened Last Week at Sanctuary?
The first Sunday of the month, Sanctuary observes communion (a time of remembrance of Jesus death and resurrection for our salvation). I enjoy these times because it allows space for Jesus to reveal himself as a very real and present redeemer of our lives. Certainly we allow space for Jesus to work in our lives every Sunday at Sanctuary, but there is a sacredness to eating the bread and drinking the cup that we are given to remember our Lord. And Jesus was working in the lives of so many people Sunday!
Communion was officiated by Scott Moses. The prayer team met before service to pray for the church and for the Holy Spirit to lead our lives generally and with respect to the worship service. (You really should consider joining us one Sunday before service at 9:15a in the music room.) After prayer Scott mentioned that he had a vision of how communion should go this morning. We talked it over and I felt very comfortable with what Scott shared - so we decided to “see what happens”. The context was that after communion Scott would then ask if anyone wanted to come forward for prayer as he read Scriptures that affirmed that the sons and daughters of God are redeemed from a list of issues that can spiritually hold people in bondage.
What started happening was that people started coming forward. Others also bursted with tears and screams as the pain of whatever they were carrying was released. From the front I could see individuals praying with one another. Some people were actively engaged in what was going on. Some passively engaged and others just simply disengaged physically and emotionally. Overall, it was clearly evident that there were many people who needed the space to release their burdens to Jesus. They’d been carrying it for too long.
At about 11:30a things started to calm and a peace came over the room. I still hadn’t preached my well prepared sermon! We plan for a 90min service so I had at least 30min to preach or see if anything else needed to happen. I felt like there were some people who needed to share testimony with the church - and people came forward to share testimony. Rob and Jackie shared about the long period of separation while in between jobs. In a matter of a week they were both offered full time positions here in Columbus. Jen Lobb shared about receiving a full scholarship for her graduate program at OSU. Stephen shared about choosing God over an addiction and making Sanctuary his home. Amy told about the meaning of her new tattoo reminding her that she is "equipped" - everything she needs in life God has already given her. My son shared a verse from Mark he challenged the family to memorize. Kayla shared about how she saw God heal her lack of vision through prayer. Evidently there needed to be space for people to share openly what God was doing in their lives...including the lives of our children.
There were several takeaways for me personally, but here a few I'd like share with you:
We are diverse experientially and spiritually
Translation - we connect with God differently from one another. About two years ago there was a worship service at Sanctuary that I described as spontaneous and unpredictable. You can read about that HERE.
Some of our expressions of worship are connected directly to our cultural upbringing. Other expressions are connected to our religious upbringing. Still other expressions have no cultural or religious context and they just are. It's important to keep in mind that our independent expressions are not the "only way" to connect with God. What's more important is that we don't judge other expressions as valid or invalid based our own cultural and/or religious expression.
In a diverse church we're called to be learners of one another - so learn the way they connect with God through singing, solitude, quietness, preaching, prayer, and so on. It's in the posture of learning the culture of our brothers and sisters that we can begin to see a more full picture of God. I knew planting a heterogeneous church would not be an easy task...the multi-ethnicity is not even the most difficult piece...it's the diversity of theology and expression that is most challenging. I'm committed to seeing this through and I believe that you are at Sanctuary because you want to see God differently- which is going to stretch everyone.
Every Sunday is an opportunity to connect with God
Specifically, the altar is open for prayer every Sunday. There are times when we want to come forward but we don't because we sit back rather than lean forward - we wait rather than jump in - we ask questions and make observations of others rather focusing on our dealing with God. Sunday was the day that evidently some people had enough of waiting and leaning back - nothing was going to stop them from connecting with Jesus.
To be fair, there's absolutely nothing wrong with staying in your seat either. God can meet you right there as much as he can meet you at the front of the room. There are times when I prefer to sit when the worship leader asks me to stand (truth, Wendy). My engagement with God is not dependent upon my movement, but sometimes God prompts us to move and we should.
I believe that we are all in process in this journey of faith. Real talk...For some at Sanctuary, you honestly have been sitting too long...your arms have been folded too squarely...and your hands have been balled up into fists too tightly. I ask you to prayerfully consider that God is using these moments to break up the hardness in your heart and show a different way, perhaps a new way of connecting with the Holy Spirit in corporate worship. The Holy Spirit is whispering, tugging, maybe even shouting, "C'mon let's party!"
Church is a time of supporting one another
The precious moment for me was seeing the care that you showed one another in prayer all over the room; sometimes at the altar at other times on the side of the room and times when you clapped or ran around the room in support of someone else's breakthrough moment. Wow! I felt the love and it felt good. I know that I can't get to pray for every person because I'm limited in what I can do. But the Spirit of God working through each of us has the potential for no one to be left out. Everyone can receive the encouragement they need when everyone participates. We should come to church with this mindset every Sunday:
- How can I join with my brother or sister through their joy or sorrow today? - What words of encouragement can I share with someone today? - Is there someone who needs an act of kindness today?
What you will find in these moments of serving one another is that God will lead to discovering spiritual gifts that will be edifying to the church body. You'd never think God could use you that way...but God will because he loves you and God loves us. He doesn't want us to miss out one thing that heaven has available. I love the verse in Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. What a verse to hang your life on!
I'm encouraged by what we experience each Sunday at Sanctuary Columbus! The temptation will be to expect our services to be the same way each week. I don't have that expectation...God will do what he will do. I trust that God is working in each of our lives in the times when it is visible and there is a testimony to go along with it and in the moments when there are not words to describe what you feel or sense. I even trust that God is working when you don't feel a thing.
I'm loving the journey we're on right now. God is growing us and stretching us and maturing us as one body. To God be the glory!