In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. – Romans 12:5 (CEB)
As I mentioned in Holy Sorrow, I worshipped this morning at Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church. Tippe is the host of Divine Intervention ministries. I have been meaning to worship at Tippe for several months. Finding this Sunday morning free (and the Packers not playing until 2:00), I headed south. (Note: I wrote this last Sunday morning, even though it’s not posting until today.)
When I arrived, announcements were already in progress. I noticed Pastor Karen was not present today, and one of the ruling elders was leading the service. As I looked around, I realized I knew several people who were there – all guests of the Divine Intervention. Approximately 30-40 people were there for worship. While I appreciated the contemplative nature of the service there were four moments that were overwhelming for me.
The first, was looking around and seeing people I “knew” – at least nine I knew by name. I knew them from hosting at Divine Intervention. But today, I was the guest in this space, since many folks from Divine Intervention worship here during the winter. This was their space before it is mine. I was surprised by the connection I felt to the others I was worshipping with even though it was my first time here.
When we passed the peace, people didn’t just shake hands, they hugged. I greeted those around me but also went to greet by name those I knew. As host at Divine Intervention, I have some modest amount of authority because that’s my role. But here, we were all the same worshipping together. I realized that I knew things that were going on in their lives right now: one recently out of the hospital, another with a grandson in intensive care, a third who was struggling with his gall bladder. I don’t understand it, but I was so thankful to greet them and be greeted.
The elder leading service read a reflection Pastor Karen had prepared beforehand but in the midst added some thoughts of his own. He shared how surprised he continues to be that he was in church when he was never looking for church. When he first came to Tippe – and only because he wanted to be married – he was bothered by all the things that were missing: decorations, standard liturgy, and pews for goodness sake! (Tippe has removed most of their pews to allow gathering rather than attending.) But what he found was that he loves Tippe for all the things that used to bother him. He found a community when he wasn’t even looking for one. He became a leader. His voice stumbled as he spoke. After the service he said he was overwhelmed by the emotions. We all were. Honesty, humility and gratitude do that.
After the service, I joined the community for coffee. Several guests who had been in worship were hanging out before they needed to leave at 11:30. I had the opportunity to sit down with two gentlemen (one I’ve known since my first visit and one I met for the first time this last Wednesday) as well as a woman from the congregation. For a half an hour, we talked about football, getting lost in Milwaukee, kids, etc. The conversation was so natural. I don’t know whether the member had met and talked with the two men before but she certainly didn’t know me. But our conversation came so easily that you would have thought we did this every Sunday.
God is so good.
I can’t express my thankfulness for this sacred experience today. Today there was no sorrow but rather the weightiness of joy – and my time of worship didn’t end with the prelude but has continued as I’ve reflected and held on to it today. The blessing that Divine Intervention has been for me is profoundly overwhelming. Even as I write this, I don’t know what to do with it. I close with words from the elder during his reflection: “I don’t make this place better. This place makes me better.” Thank you, Lord, for you generous love for us.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)