Sunday, May 16, 2010

Staying the course

Psalmcat 51:5.16.10

I just spent about 40 minutes I didn't have, trying to write a descriptive narrative rather than another post that's all about my perspective. As I could see a powerful, insightful sermon unfolding this morning, I started taking notes, about the Scripture, the context, the unexpected and beautiful musical accompaniment. I looked forward to "reporting" about it, capturing not only the words but the spirit, emotion and meaning.

Instead, I learned again why I'm no longer a reporter. For now, I still cannot do it. I thought I would at least be able to string together words into phrases and sentences and paragraphs to convey the impact of the message, even if I knew I couldn't provide detailed quotes. But when I sat down to write that, it just didn't work.

And so, as I told my Mom this morning, I have to remind myself again that, as much as I would like to entertain and enlighten, that's not my goal. I'm writing to discover and share my heart and my spirit, prayerfully and honestly. The worship service and sermon I wanted to write about are part of that process.

The sermon title was "Jailhouse Music." The Scripture was Acts 16:25-34. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."
Then he called for a light, ran in and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their (wounds). And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household."

These are powerful words of Scripture. I've read them many times. but having them followed today by a simple but dramatic first-person retelling, accompanied by spiritual songs from piano, guitar and voice, helped me really read and contemplate the words. I was trying to describe the sermon to a friend, with whom I often discuss matters theological and spiritual, and the friend expressed some concern about mixing Scripture and dramatization/interpretation in a sermon. It was an interesting conversation, and I still don't understand all of the concern. I do know that the preacher's words, plus one soloist's original song and accompaniment, another soloist's "Nobody Knows the Trouble I See" and then a quartet's rousing rendition of "He Set Me Free," seemed effective in punctuating the Scripture, saying "Amen" to the Scripture, and not adding to or subtracting from it.

But the phrase I jotted down that really caught my attention was after the Scripture and the piano solo. "I want to know the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (Isn't that from Scripture, too?) This was before I had realized the pastor was expounding on the Scripture from Paul's perspective. But the thing it did is make me realize: I want to know the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I think God is trying to reveal that power to me and others who are seeking. I see evidence of people responding in new ways to use their God-given gifts to His glory. Today, many of those gifts helped bring Scripture alive, at least for me.

As I also told my Mom, I like it when it I can write tight, right, bright and light. But it seems like things I think no one will even read, much less understand, are as likely to make a connection with a reader as those that I think are pithy! The hardest thing, still, is setting boundaries. I could write and write and write and write. I pray to know what's important to write about at any moment, and how to express it. I leave it in God's hands. And I continue to be amazed by his graceful touch on my life.

(Now, it's been an hour. But it's done, expressed. Another step. Thank you, God.)

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