Saturday, August 12, we hosted a 12 hour day of worship at 7th Metro Church. I wish my words could paint a true picture of what the day looked and felt like. What I can say is that, held up to what was happening in Charlottesville, VA (on the same day), it was a picture of redemption.
The House was full of so many different nationalities, cultures, colors, ages and denominations who identified as one people; a people whose sole identity was to worship their Creator. The same Creator who made them all.
In the morning, a pew full of older black women, shook with their prayers as they pulled heaven down into that place. A white man played guitar, while his Filipino sister pounded the keys and his Ghanan sister, engaged the throne room with her violin.
Then our 18 year old, African American sister from Baltimore, played her heart out asking Jesus to give us His heart. You could feel Jesus walking past each pew, touching the head of each person.
The pigeons flew from one window to the next, wondering how their peaceful haven had been disrupted.
Then twin black sisters from Baltimore, collectively, gently sat at His feet and invited us to join them. Jesus reminded me of the word my Korean brother had spoken earlier about Noah’s ark. “Bring two of every kind.” I glanced to the ceiling, to the birds, to the twins and said, “Lord, it looks like we’re in the ark. What are you trying to say?”
He responded, “I placed a FAMILY on the ark. They were preserved, along with two of every kind of creature, to be the carriers of LIFE. This is My family.”
Our Korean family took to the instruments and began to bang on the drums, petitioning God to move in our hearts, uniting us as one. They brought with them the family honor and code; the one that humbly submits to the other. We were reminded in those hours to wash the feet of our family.
A homeless, pregnant, young woman came in looking for refuge and a moment of peace. Addicts, artists, hippies, homeless, joined us for worship and a meal, prepared and served by Mercy Chefs right outside the church doors. They lingered on the steps of the church talking with others who looked nothing like them. I saw people who had never met, bowing in prayer with one another or pulling up a chair to share a meal together. Heaven was on that corner of St. Paul and North Ave.
The next voice to fill the air, was our white, middle aged brother. He’s a brother who, like David, understands the amazing grace and forgiveness of God. From a place of brokenness, he contended by submitting to Jesus. He was joined by a family with many young sons, one of whom cried out for God’s mercy. He was maybe 10 or 11 and with tears cried, “Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.”
As one instrument got quieter, Holy Host took their places. Our black family, straight from the heart of our city brought their spoken word, passionate beats and pounded on our hearts to take back and reclaim our family that has been lost. They called out and recognized just Who our Dad is…loving, merciful, healer, restorer of our souls. Oh man! If you could’ve been there! Heaven was in that place. A white sister joined them, one they’d never met. She sang a melody that enhanced their song. The volume increased and the walls shook as they sang, “Let it rain! Let it rain! Open the floodgates of heaven!” The thunder, literally started crashing and lightening cracked through the skies. It poured down rain. And as their thunderous refrain continued, some of us ran around with buckets to try and catch the streams pouring from the roof and opened the drains in the basement to try and receive the currents pouring in from the foundations.
We were in the ark. We were alive! We were living and breathing and united as a family. We were wet and it was getting wild, but we were alive and we were not alone. God had set our family together with us in this space and we were SO aware of His goodness…His awesomeness…His majesty.
The rains quieted down as we entered the last three hours of our twelve hour worship. Our joy filled, black brother ushered us into celebration! We knew we’d encountered our King. He had been with us all day. His tiny sister sang her heart out, in her pure child’s voice, faith filled, not questioning, her Daddy’s ability to respond.
Then the crew that had opened us ten and a half hours earlier, took back to their instruments. They silently requested that the Holy Spirit would renew their spirits so they could bring a continuous offering of praise. The House was not as full, but I looked around and saw Uganda, Korea, America, Hungry, Philippines, suburbia, the city, male, female, brother, sister, young and old, two of every kind lifting up one voice, to one father…the harmony was heavenly and it carried with it life.
We cried out to Him for forgiveness, justice, reconciliation, revival, thanksgiving and praise. There was a collective prayer that went up that said, “Who are We without You?”
This morning as I read about and watch the atrocities that happened on the same day in Virginia, I can’t help but think,
Church, who are We, without Him?
We have failed our brothers and sisters of color. We have failed the refugees who seek safety. We have sinned by seeing them as “other”.
We have been silent.
We have kept our doors shut, not wanting to be inconvenienced.
We have been afraid to get off our fence, speak up or even be associated with our family.
We have refused to look at our sin, to call it what it is.
Church, who are We without Him?
The message and life of Jesus was a dangerous one. It upset political systems and made the religious incredibly uncomfortable. His words pierced the hearts of those who were afraid to associate with others, calling out their arrogance, pride and complacency. At the same time, His words and posture, identified with those considered the least of these, the minorities, the outcasts and sinners. His very life, left the religious wondering if Jesus was “one of those”.
Jesus, You prayed that we would be one as You and the Father are one. May we see our brothers and sisters, every single one of them, despite their color, background, status, culture, political affiliations, nationality, identity, age or sex…may we see them as us. May we recognize our family. Open our eyes Lord, to our family. Forgive us for our divorce, our indifference, our busy-ness, our complacency. Forgive us for not wanting to see them as our own. Give us eyes and hearts that are made new, resurrected to Your original design, to be one, as you are one.
Who are we without You? Father, we need you. Jesus, we need you. Holy Spirit, we need you. Please forgive us. Break our hearts for what and who breaks Yours. Fill this House, this ark, with our Family, with life, in all it’s messy and uncomfortable, wet and wild bits, and let us know, in our deep knowing, that it is You that sustains and gives us life.
Jesus, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for my family.