What does joy feel like?
What does a God's ordaining moment feel like?
What does "this is the gospel incarnated" feel like?
What does a "this is why I do ministry" moment feel like?
For me, all of the questions could sum up how I felt about worship and lunch with our friends at Martin Luther King, Jr. Christian Church yesterday. We gathered together in celebration of their 30th anniversary in their worship space. Though this was the first time we'd worshipped together at 11 am, it was not the first time we'd shared fellowship together. Past events included shared lunches and a Sunday afternoon black history month program last February.
As I sit at my desk this morning, my heart just beams with joy from what our coming together meant in the larger perspective of why it is that we do church in the first place.
We sang out our hearts out (our choirs even practiced together prior to the service on Thursday night for two special pieces), we prayed, we gave our offerings together and we forgot about the time on the clock. I watched from my preacher's chair on the pulpit members of my congregation being moved by the spirit to clap, stand and raise their hands too in praise of God. It was good church!
I was invited to preach the anniversary sermon, by MLK Christian's pastor, Rev. Dr. Jean Robinson-Casey-- a very gracious gesture coming out of our shared friendship and belief that the gospel must be lived out in diversity. It was my first time preaching in a predominantly African-American congregation and I loved it! The feedback from the congregation enlivened my spirit and I believe that could really preach like this every Sunday if given more response.
Joy for me came in simply being together.
As themes of my own life story have always included paying attention to racial reconciliation, so yesterday felt again like a moment of "this is what you were made to do." I love building relationships with those who are of different traditions with me and I'm glad when others want to build them back. Friendship is always at the heart of any change. I am proud to call Rev. Jean my friend.
As I said in my sermon, we only really know what Jesus looks like when we are in relationship with ALL of God's children. So in adding some different faces to our worship and fellowship, it felt like another dimension of the gospel was revealed to us all. It was holy ground. And, when we find holy ground, don't we want to walk on it as much as possible?
There is so much of what we do as pastors and in church that feels like grunt work-- filing papers, keeping lists, sending reminder emails about who needs to take the trash out or when Bible Study starts-- that can suck the passion out of us faster than we know it. But, yesterday was a reminder of how powerful our collective experience of church can be when we direct our administrative talents toward the relationships and the reconciliation that really matters.
I believe that the expressions of friendship between the Martin Luther King, Jr. Christian Church and Washington Plaza Baptist church that continued and overflowed yesterday have only just begun. I look forward to my continued friendship with Rev. Jean and I look forward to WPBC and MLK continuing to partner together for the glory of God.