Monday, May 21, 2012

The Program

I visited a church Sunday morning, because my little niece wanted me to watch her sing.  This was a special occasion and many of the kids sang songs, read the announcements, or participated in some way.

As I walked in, I was given a program. It has been years since I've been to a church that prepared programs. It reminded me of the large church I attended growing up as a kid. I opened the program and saw my niece's name. I was a very proud aunt to just see it spelled out in print. Someone had spent an awful lot of time and effort into making this remarkable program which had the songs, prayers, speakers, etc. all listed out in exact order of which they were to occur. My mind drifted for a moment and I wondered what was happening at my own church...where there are no programs.

I looked around at what appeared to be around 200 people gathered in the large Sanctuary and knew I didn't really fit in here. They had structure, order, organization. I looked over at my sister and knew she needed that order. But I fidgeted around such.

It was a lovely service, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I hurried home, spent time with my family, but knew I was just trying my best to get to my church's Sunday night service. The Lord blessed me and led my daughter and I right through those familiar glass doors once again.

I sat next to the preacher's wife and felt exactly the same as I did the last time I sat beside her. Trying not to be redundant, I only thought I'm glad to see my church people, which is what I said out loud to her the last time I sat beside her. As our service began in the usual format of a song or two...I quietly wondered what I would write, if I were going to script our service. You see, we don't have programs at our church. People don't arrive expecting three predicted songs to be led, the preacher to stand and preach, a closing prayer, and the church doors closing behind people rushing to their cars now that the task of church was complete.

The songs felt good as my body absorbed the words. Different people approached the piano and picked the song of their choosing, and led each one until we thought we were finished. A tiny child walked up to her mother and sadly told her that she had not had a turn to sing. Right at that very moment from across the room with no possible way of overhearing the child...someone asked if she and her sister would sing a song. As the two little girls took their mics and began to sing, I fought back tears. I was exactly where I needed to be...and I knew what I'd put in our church's program if I were able to write my next visit there.

Sunday Morning

Two Pianists walk to the front in slow motion. Before they even take their seats, someone stands to Testify because The Spirit can't be contained. As soon as they finish another stands and then another. Before the first finger hits an ivory key, an older lady stands and begins to belt the words to "Sweet Beulah Land". Chills fill everyone's arms as The Spirit has come to visit us all. Tears roll from the cheeks of every member as they long for that sweet Beulah Land while they whisper the words to the song she strongly and confidently sings. As she takes her seat when words end, her son takes his song book, and asks her to walk to the front with him and his grown children, and together, three generations stand before the pianos that gently play "Lord I'm Coming Home".

Some people gasp for breaths as The Spirit has filled the church. All hearts present beat slow and deeply. A child makes her way to the front where The Altar welcomes her. Many sinners follow and bow in repentance and bow in worship to Jesus Christ. The Song Director makes his way up front and uses his beautiful voice "...thousands of voices are swelling the song, Worthy the Lamb that was slain..." . All of a sudden more bodies move to the front and bow their heads down, soaking the carpet underneath with unworthy tears.

Finally, someone walks to the front and leads a closing song, and that's just the beginning of our Worship Service. The preacher takes his Bible up to the front and assures the congregation that they'll be doing themselves and their fellow people, and God himself a disservice if He speaks to them, and they don't answer. He may or may not feel led to preach but if he does, he will be lit as if on fire. He'll wipe the sweat from his brow but let the tears drip from his cheeks. He may shout, he may stand up on a bench he may slam his hands down on the pulpit. His voice will wring your bones dry and you'll find yourself gripping your own Bible so tight, you hand aches. When he closes, and has had Invitation, he reminds us that it's only Sunday morning and we'll meet back, to do it all over again later that night.

Someone interrupts him before he dismisses us and suggests we all stand and sing Amazing Grace together, loud and proud...and we do just that. We then realize that we never even had Sunday School. Some of the children walk up front and sing "This Little Light of Mine" with their sweet, pure voices to remind us, we have jobs to do. We are eventually dismissed and we all say goodbye. Grown men wear red, puffy eyes but women no longer wear the make up that they arrived in. With smiles on our faces, we shake hands and fellowship out in the parking lot, not hardly ready to say goodbye.

Yeah, I'd probably write something like that...You see, it's nearly impossible to predict what will take place during our services. The Lord writes our services, always...and though there's nothing wrong with structure or even programs for those who need them, I'm truly blessed that I don't know what song is coming next...or what Blessings will spill onto our pews. I enjoy the little surprises He gives me...

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