Saturday, November 24, 2012

Message of Meaning

I'll admit it.  Sometimes I add a church to my list because I drive by it often and I like the sign.  If the sign is funny, witty, meaningful, or even updated often, I am drawn to the church and their congregation.  It's how I found First Church of the Nazarene, and it's how I found last week's church as well.  Trinity Baptist Church is one of those churches.

I read their website as part of my pre-visit preparation, and the pastor sounded so earnest that I was intrigued.  Nothing about the site was pushy, nothing was preachy, it was just "here is our church and we hope we can welcome you".  I am a real sucker for that kind of church website.

Walking towards the building, I first noticed the live oaks that surround it.  There were leaves and acorns underfoot, branches overhead, and a feeling that the church was a part of the earth and not trying to overcome it.  The trees shelter the front entrance somewhat, and a visitor might feel ushered in as I did.

Entering the sanctuary, I noticed the organ music.  I'll admit right here, that I am not a big fan of organ music.  My mom would have recognized whatever it was being played, but I just felt an innermost sinking.  My church journey, so far, sometimes feels split into two camps-- organ music and rockin' gospel.  I've only attended a couple of places that had the kind of modern, prayerful blend of old and new that I really like to sing along to.

Want to know a secret, though?  Once the choir started singing, even with the very traditional hymns, I didn't care.  The choir director sang along, with her clear voice and absolute joy in the music leading us all to enjoy.

I really love this song.

How wonderful it is, when a choir and a congregation sing together with wide smiles on their faces!  Regardless of the type of music, the joy in the room envelopes everyone.  I began to suspect that there was something really special here.

There was a traditional speak-and-respond call to worship, two scripture readings, pastoral and Lord's prayer, and a few more hymns besides the one I linked to above.  The order of service was smooth and flowing, with the children in attendance moving to the front of the sanctuary at the end of one hymn for "Children's Time" with the pastor before their Children's Church.

If any of the attending parents were like my mother, and any of these children were like the girl I once was, I can imagine they were holding their breath when the kids went to the front.  The Pastor, after all, had a mike on.  Little voices sometimes carry.  Little voices sometimes make comments that make parents want to sink through the floor.  

Thankfully, none of this happened and the Pastor's quick talk with the children about "giving thanks" and asking what they were thankful for was simply sweet. I didn't even have a child at the front of the church and my eyes misted a bit. I loved this, and I hope it's something that happens often, if not at every service.  

Then, there was the sermon.  Pastor Morgan said at the beginning that he was at a gathering when he was asked about the end times.  He was asked about Hurricane Sandy, and wars, and all of the political strife across the world, and if those signaled the end times. 

He said he didn't know, but he didn't think so. He explained that "apocolypse" and "revelation" were the same thing, translated-- that there was a revealing of truth in the Book of Revelation.  He then talked about looking at the Dallas skyline, and how amazing it was, and how impressive it was.

Then he related it to this verse:

Mark 13:1-8-- As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

Pastor Morgan then went on to talk about prayer, and what we give thanks for at Thanksgiving.  He poked a little fun at himself that all of his items began with the letter "f":

Faith (not dogma)

He then said that these were the stones of our temple, the idols of our day.  These are all blessings from God, true, but when we put them before God, they become idols.  And just like the Temple in Jesus' day, they will collapse and be brought down.

Our foundations are being torn down.  They've become a temple.  Now, we must look for faith, not in buildings or tradition, but in God's work.

Do we pray for God's grace, or that He will follow our intentions?  What are we to do when our foundations crumble?  Only one thing.  We keep moving one foot in front of the other.  "Eventually we come to a place that has expected our return."  

God is on his throne.

I would absolutely return to this church. It wasn't their bread ministry for visitors (I received a lovely loaf of pumpkin spice bread), their witty sign, nor the music-- it was the sermon of absolute meaning and worth.  It was the Pastor himself, greeting his congregation and visitors as we left, noting visitors and chatting a moment. It was the email I received later, from the Pastor, thanking me personally for my visit. There is much that makes a church special and this is one of the several I've visited so far that have truly affected me.  

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