I remember as a kid being in church and feeling God's presence so profoundly that the air felt 'thick'. It's been a long time since I've experienced that - until about two weeks ago. We gathered after worship to listen to Bill, my coach, advise us on moving forward as a church. As we listened, talked, and debated, the presence of God seemed to fill the room.
"I now KNOW God exists, because I experienced his movement first-hand." was said by more than one person that day.
That is the power of unity. When a group of people come together for a common purpose, God's Spirit is attracted to and more easily displayed in the midst of that unity. That doesn't mean everyone sees everything the same, nor does it mean that every problem was solved. But a unity of our spirits invites the Holy Spirit to move in unexpected ways.
When there is unity...
1. there is a common purpose. People put aside their own agendas for the greater good of the church.
2. there is a commitment to stay in relationship, even if we disagree or don't understand. No one stomps from the room because they didn't get their way or because of some minor procedure that wasn't followed.
3. it is a magnet for the Holy Spirit. God rarely if ever works outside of human agency. When we are unified around God's will, the Holy Spirit is freer to move, work, and change lives. Because of our openness, God is more open with us.
And it is a wonderful thing to experience. May we see many more days of God's Movement.
I was talking to a young man who grew up in a Methodist Church (not Girard). I was taken back by something he said.
I had preached about how following Jesus was different than following a religion. Religion is about following rules, but following Christ is about a relationship. This relationship is one granted to us by faith. We can't work our way to it. It's not about being a good person or getting enough 'points' to earn our way to God. This is a huge distinction between a religion and a relationship.
And then he said this:
I've been going to church my entire life and I never heard that before.
Wow. Seriously? Even if he only went on Christmas and Easter, still in his 35 years he should have heard something about salvation coming by grace through trust in God. Certainly someone would have pointed out that this is the unique message of Christ against the backdrop of every religion (including what is preached as Christianity sometimes).
So in all of your celebrations, hunting for Easter eggs, dinners and family pictures, don't forget the most important stuff...
The life, death, and resurrection of Christ IS our hope.
The stained glass, music, good deeds, giving to missions, working in the Sunday School class, are all great things. But they only serve to communicate the most important thing.
We have peace with God because of Jesus. If we trust him to bridge the divide, then it is so, by His grace.
Everything else springs from that. Thanks be to God. We are truly free.