Happy New Year! Fall semester was very busy at Judson University, and so the posts on this blog have been few and far between for the past few months. I hope to get back into the swing of things beginning this week.
My wife and I are still nomadic where church attendance is concerned these days (ending up where our daughter has served as a children’s ministry coordinator some Sundays and where our son plays in the praise band on others), so we occasionally visit churches where some of my students and recent alums serve in worship ministry.
Yesterday we attended one such church, a small, Southern Baptist congregation in a very multiculturally (and socioeconomically) diverse part of Elgin, Ill. Back in the 80’s, the late senior pastor taught as an adjunct bible professor at Judson, and I took his class on the prophet Jeremiah. Later, his son came to Judson as a basketball player during the time I was on the hoops coaching staff; he later went on to marry one of my sister’s best college friends. The current pastor was a campus leader when I ran the chapel ministry at Judson, and the last three worship leaders have been students of mine. Lots of connections.
Reveling in all those ties was nice, but two things blessed me even more. First, the quality of the congregational singing was fabulous. This church pursues a mix of musical styles, so we sang “10,000 Reasons” at the front and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” at the end; in both cases (and during the other songs in between), the congregation, about 100 in attendance, sounded like 500. Part of that was due to the architecture in the church (high ceiling, lots of wood on the floor along with a bit of carpet), which fosters resonant corporate song, but part of it had to do with the songs themselves (pretty familiar across generational lines) and how they were presented (piano, acoustic guitar, violin, and cajon). All three factors contributed to a rich congregational singing experience. (Notice the Christmas trees still up on the twelfth day of Christmas, the day before Epiphany. I love it when low-church fellowships embrace the liturgical calendar.)
Second, the sermon, excellently delivered, focused on expectations for 2020, with the end of Hebrews 4 and the beginning of Hebrews 5 as the Scriptural focus. The pastor gave us three certainties for the new year: 1) We’re going to have needs (be they spiritual, physical, relational, financial); 2) we’re going to need help; and 3) we’re not alone. While he emphasized that final point with the description of our great High Priest, the sun, which had been hiding behind clouds on an overcast morning, all of a sudden burst forth, flooding the sanctuary with light, as if to punctuate the truth of God’s presence in our lives at all time. Emmanuel, God with us, indeed.
Blessings for a wonderful 2020! The Lord be with you!