This past Sunday we closed our six-week sermon series on prayer by talking the lessons we learn from the Apostle Paul. One word summarized the majority of Paul’s teaching on the subject matter, and that word is “Thanksgiving.” Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is our task, to give thanks in all circumstances, to count blessings, and to offer gratitude in all circumstances. This can be difficult to do. However, this is something that I have experienced first hand in the past 24 hours.
Every Sunday we open our worship services at Resurrection Downtown by saying, “Our hope and our prayer is that everyone in attendance would meet God here in this place tonight.”
I pray that people will meet God in worship, and that through prayer, music, scripture, sermon and/or communion they might have an encounter with the Living God. The bottom line is that I want people to experience God in worship. I want them to know the breadth and length and height and depth of God. I want people to know the love of God that surpasses knowledge.
This past Sunday night things started off a bit differently than they normally do. This past Sunday we experienced just our second CART (Cardiac Arrest Response Team) emergency in our short life as a campus. One of our parishioners was rushed away by ambulance to the hospital just minutes before the service. When she fell, we cared for her immediately and prayed for her fervently. After she was on her way to the hospital we sent a pastor and another couple to accompany her husband to the hospital just to be there for them. Then we started worship.
I opened the worship service the way we usually do. I said, “Our prayer is that everyone in attendance would meet God here in this place tonight.” The service was moving, the sermon was stirring, the sacrament filled us with a love that surpasses knowledge. However, I can’t say that I encountered the full breadth and length and height and depth (the fullness of God) until I arrived at the hospital later that same night in the minutes that followed worship.
I arrived at the hospital within thirty minutes of our service’s conclusion, and as I walked up to the ER, to my amazement there were already five members of the church in the waiting room. After I visited with our parishioner, two more people had arrived (including one of our police officers who regularly worships with us). As the night carried on, everybody played a part, some people gathered food, some collected changes of clothing, some people took care of transporting cars, others brought flowers, and others still brought stuffed animals. At one point in the evening there was a group of people standing around this couple just praying. This whole time, the only words offered in response to all of the things that were going on around her by the wounded woman in the midst of her pain and confusion, was “Thank you. Thank you for being here. I am so blessed.”
All of these people did not know each other just a few months ago, all of these people did not attend church regularly just a few months ago, all of these people met in worship just a few months ago, and somehow in the midst of this evening, their ability to be there for each other, and show up for each other, and step up for each other, and love one another…I experienced God. In this moment, at this hospital, all of these people I experienced the true depth and breadth and height and length of God’s love. I was reminded of Paul’s words to the Colossians, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” On Sunday night, I encountered the presence of the Living God and for that I give thanks…
May you experience the love of God in unexpected places today!
And when you do…be sure to stop and say, ‘Thanks!’