“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one bodywhether Jews or Gentiles, slave or freeand we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” -1 Corinthians 12:12-14
At 10:16 a.m. this morning, I was swaying back and forth, clapping and singing with great gusto as the congregation of Spirit and Truth Church praised Jesus for all His goodness. The music was rapid, Latin, and thoroughly infectious; Spanish and English lyrics alike rolled across the projector screen, and intermingled in the air. The congregants, many in flip-flops and shorts, sang with joyful faces and raised hands, despite the already oppressive heat, and they showed no signs of ceasing, even after multiple rounds At 2:15 p.m., I was sitting at a lunch table surrounded by chattering teenage girls, eating some of the best pasta salad and barbeque I’ve ever tasted, at Grace and Peace Church’s post-service anniversary party. Kids of all ethnicities ran in a screaming gaggle through a lawn sprinkler set on the concrete, while the older kids shot hoops next to the massive, smoking grill. Here and there in the crowd, I saw faces I recognized, from places as varied as the people themselves. There were worshippers from numerous churches, including my own; community members whose blood pressure I’d taken in the previous week, who smiled in recognition; SMI teammates, laughing and relaxed on their Sabbath day.
At 6:23 p.m., I was listening to the dulcet tones of “This Is My Father’s World”, played skilfully on the bassoon in an otherwise silent sanctuary. As the song ended, the hush of Tenth Presbyterian Church was broken only by a few whispered “Amen” ‘s. Moments later, we all stood in crisp unison, called to worship by the rolling brogue of Dr. Liam Goligher. And afterward, hymnals opened, we filled the arching ceilings of Tenth with resonant, four-part harmony These were just a few of the different snapshots of today, the first Sabbath our team has spent in small groups, rather than one large one. Some of you readers might already be aware of the fact that during the week, we split into teams of two or three to give our medical checks and faith screens, so that we can reach as many of the neighborhoods of Hunting Park as possible. In like manner, we remain in those teams on Sunday, each of us worshipping at the church residing in the neighborhood where we go door-to-door. The idea is for us to be able to become a true part of the community we’re serving to love it because it’s our own, in some small measure. To see the same faces, and build up trust and friendshipnot only among the Christians, but those we seek to be a witness to. With all of us at different places, cross-overs became an option; once “our” services ended, many of us simply picked up and relocated to where some other part of the team was. The result is the kind of day described above, where you might see, and be a part of, just about anything Christians do to “do church”.
Perhaps you, dear reader, connect with one of these church and worship descriptions more strongly than the others, finding it familiar and comfortable. You might find yourself thinking, “I’d like THAT place best”. Perhaps, in a similar vein, one of them makes you somewhat discomfited. If you were forced to worship there, you might struggle inwardly, anxious to sneak out the back door in search of something more “your style”.
Even now, as the day ends, I, too, shake my head in wonder and amusement. The thought that kept repeating in my mind was, “These could NOT be more different.” But the Lord used that juxtaposition (and the verse in italics above) to remind me of the far more important truththat, no matter what they looked like on the surface, these places were united by their love for Christ. Far more than they varied, their deepest identity was one of family family that would be together for all of eternity. Brothers and sisters under one Father, with one shared purposeto live for Jesus, praise His name, and share Him with the world.
So it is, too, with our SMI team. I marvel at how quickly the Lord changes our perspectives. Barely one week ago, we were a group of near-strangers, politely asking one another the same stilted “get-to-know-you” questions everyone uses to break the ice. Now, just a few days later, we’ve become a motley crew, a unified bunch of misfits. As I write this entry, I am surrounded by about half of our group members, each relaxing in the way they like best. One is sprawled out on the floor in a t-shirt and biking shorts, typing furiously on a laptop; another is sitting primly in a chair, reading quietly. Two are enacting some kind of Southern-drawl comedy routine; one is exhorting another (only half-seriously) to “go work on his spiritual life”. Shoes, Bibles, various musical instruments, and other random objects fill our shared living space, and even at this late hour, someone’s cleaning the kitchen. Clearly, we are all individuals; we each have different personalities, hobbies, and spiritual gifts. Even our healthcare backgrounds diverge significantly, as do our levels of expertise; we are future M.D.’s, D.O.’s, pharmacists, nurses, physical therapists the list goes on. Yet we live here on project with the same goals. To honor and glorify the God we all love deeply. To reach a hurting community with the love of Jesus. To grow together in fellowship and faithfulness. To become ever more skillful at administering healthcare. And we are truly becoming one body, as friends and family and it is incredible to see. (Even more incredible to be a part of!) Most important, the same Holy Spirit is working in each of us, testing and growing and strengthening us more and more as the days go by.
I am so thankful that our God is a God of delightful paradoxes. I love that He chooses to use sanctified sinners to accomplish His purposes, rather than entrust them to some perfect angelic helper, or carry them out Himself. I praise Him each time I realize that He makes one beautiful, functioning body out of the most random parts. I rejoice at the fact that He is a creative God who loves diversity, and is the Originator of everything that makes us unique. I love that I saw a small picture of heaven today, in our churches, and in our team. Heavena time and place where all our worship, varied as it is, will blend together like the instruments in an orchestra, making one great splendor of harmony to the King of Kings.
Tomorrow, it’s back to the streets 🙂 Rachel R.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Rachel Rafferty. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org