Driving to the church, I noticed the parking lot seemed awfully empty. Two cars pulled away as I drove up, and my heart began to sink. What was going on? As I drove past the front of the church, I could see worship times printed. Service had ended at least half an hour before I drove over! This particular church has two locations, and apparently I had gotten the times mixed up so I was on time for the other location, about 45 minutes' drive away.
Because of this project, I have really noticed all of the churches around me as I drive through town. It's even opened up conversations with the rest of the family, as they ask "Have you gone to this one?" or other questions about service types or even sermons. I remembered a church that was pretty close to my current wrong-for-today church, and quickly looked it up on my phone (thank you, God, for smartphones!). They had a service starting in half an hour, and YAY, I could come dressed a little more casually!
I truly believe that God will put us where we need to be, wherever He wants us to be. That has been evident in the big things before in my life, and it was no less evident than it was last Sunday. I have no idea what the sermon might have been at the church I planned to attend, but the sermon this week was timely and it gave me some needed perspective.
This last week, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was brutally tortured and murdered. Embassies in many countries are besieged, and they seem so vulnerable. Presidential candidates went back and forth over reactionary comments, with bickering on both sides. The world, seemingly, is on fire.
Sometimes a song can uplift an entire congregation.
The congregation of the church I attended this last week, Grace Christian Center, has a wide variety of ages, skin colors, clothing styles... God's people were well represented. Ushers in blazers helped latecomers to their seats, and helped the service go smoothly. The choir sounded amazing, but the music leader, Pastor Charles Reid, Jr., really spoke to my heart. His energy, his love for the Lord and his heart for the music, really spoke to me during the entire service. I will never hear this song without remembering him pointing to the heavens with "every high and every low," the congregation's voices filling the sanctuary. In a time that seems frightening, this song made me feel God's arms truly wrapping around me and His voice reminding me, "I will never leave you."
The main message of the sermon was based on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, from Luke 21:25-28.
New International Version (NIV)
25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Pastor Terry Whitley reminded us not to go too deep into prophesy, saying that only God knows at what hour He will return. But over and over, the phrase "Perplexity of nations" rang in my head. That is what we are dealing with today. There is confusion, anger, despair, perplexity everywhere.
Over the sermon, Pastor Whitley went over some historical background. No matter what happened, whether it was the beginning of our country or the Civil Rights movement, God was in control. Many times, he would say, "What sin abounds, grace will much more abound." What a wonderful reminder! No matter what war, what unrest, what horror the world endures, there is an entry of God's work. So we can look forward to what God's redemption will be in the current times. God cannot be outdone.
I am glad for the chance to visit this church. It seems vibrant and growing, focusing on service and learning about God. There was a circle of prayer before the sermon that was very moving to watch, and of course the music...oh, the music. I particularly liked how he closed the service, "Now go be the church."