"Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness" - C. S. Lewis
Worship has always been for me a thing to attend, and the Gospel mere words on a page that I believe. But the power of the Gospel Sunday in our worship was literally overwhelming for me.
The music was, great, the message was, exemplary, the setting, ornate. Often in our worship service I have seen God's presence in each of these: the music stirring a song of joy, or reflection, or of peace; the Message, bringing hope in a particularly dry time in my life; the prayers, offering me a window into the soul of the pray-er, and transporting me into the presence of Almighty God. Often I have seen Christ in the pieces, much like a guitar played on only one or two strings. But Sunday was different. I saw Christ in the SERVICE. Not like a well-played six string guitar, but rather like a harp in the hands of an expert, played to the tune of the Gospel He died to bring us, displaying the grace of God His Spirit imparts to us, as shown through His people, in concert, live, for the world to see.
The service was not pretty. In fact, it was the most painful worship service of my life. To the backdrop of the church's Elders, the announcement was made that a trusted member of the church, the finance secretary, had taken money from the church's accounts. The finance secretary stood at the podium and confessed her sin, and simply requested forgivness. The hurt was evident in the faces and voices of the elders who spoke, and the congregation who listened. And the easy thing for everyone would have been to express their anger, and explain how bad this sin was, and go away disillusioned and angry. The tension in the service, the reality sinking in, lead me to wonder was this really a good idea to make such an announcement. How would this congregation respond? Would they treat her with kindness, or, as the Gospel dictates, would they treat her with love?
Paul said it well: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (I Cor. 13:6-7). In that service, in the face of the very people who should be offended, there was LOVE. All those things Paul said about it, they were there. Love, for Christ, love, for her, love, for His church. She stood before us, exposed and vulnerable and found a congregation of God's people willing to protect and walk the journey with her. You see, she was not a weeping sinner, trying to make it right with God on display for our amusement; she was a sister, trying to make it right with us, the very people she offended.
Only the Spirit of God can do that. In the surreal moment of that long service, sin was not on display. Rather, God's love was on display through His people. This time not just the musicians, the pray-ers, or the preacher. All of God's people displayed it.
What hope I have, that despite my sin, I am loved. I felt safe. I felt protected. I felt loved. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8: 38-39).
Community Presbyterian Church is properly named. We are truly are a Community of God's people.