Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Outside Looking In


The funniest non-spiritual part of the Spiritual Growth Workshop weekend was when I asked Allan, "What do you think the final score will be in the Arkansas-Texas game?" Without hesitation (and not having read my blog on Friday), he said, "52-10."

Which is exactly what I predicted.


We both nailed it. Should've taken a lunch break via Vegas with those prognostication powers, especially in light on Monday's stock market crash.


My friend, Allan Stanglin, participated in this year's Spiritual Growth Workshop and here is how he captured the events of Sunday on his blog. I love his perspective, as an outsider experiencing the eclectic tapestry of the Woodward Park church family. He's captured well what those of who call Woodward Park home take for granted.

A perfect Sunday. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Praying with Jim Gardner in the hour of calm and peace before the morning assembly. Maybe the thing I miss the most about working with Jim is our prayer time together. Those early Sunday morning times with God and Jim were always such blessings. To pray for each other as we prepared to preach or teach or lead the singing each Sunday always seemed so critical. It was so important. It always filled me with so much confidence and courage. My faithful brothers Paul and Mike fill that role with me now here at Legacy. They bless me with their presence and their encouragement and their prayers every Sunday. Praying with Jim yesterday at Woodward Park was special.

I preached on the parables of Luke 15. A young man named Ethan was baptized. His father told me afterward that it was due, in large part, to the sermon I had preached there Saturday night on God’s promises. I tied the strange and obscure blood path ceremony story in Genesis 15 to the crucifixion of Jesus. God made a covenant with his people and then stood in their (our) place and took their (our) punishment for them (us) when they (we) broke that covenant agreement.

Our God loves us that much. He’s that committed to us. I don’t care how many books are written about the death of Jesus. I don’t care how many great poets and authors and songwriters put pen to paper. There are no words to describe the power of the picture of the blood of Almighty God dripping into the dust—just like he promised—to pay for my sins. It moved Ethan. It still moves me.

Following the morning assembly, Jim and I walked into the Laotian meeting where 136 Laotian brothers and sisters had gathered to worship. We walked in while they were singing How Great Thou Art. One of my all time favorite Christian hymns. It’s a funeral song for me, right? You know what I’m talking about. We sang it at my grandmother’s funeral eight years ago. And so now every time I hear it or sing it, I think of her. So there’s added weight and emotion there for me. And these beautiful brothers and sisters from the other side of the world are praising our God with this wonderful song. And I’m so blessed to be there. And humbled. They sang He Leadeth Me. Of course, the tunes are ultra-obvious. I know the songs. I’ve known them my entire life. But I can’t sing with them. It’s a different language. I can only listen. And hum. It sounds so wildly different. And yet so amazingly familiar. Comforting. Inspiring.

They introduced Jim and me to their congregation. We stood and bowed toward their church family with our hands together in front of our faces. And they smiled at us and nodded. Then we sang (hummed) Amazing Grace. And then we shared communion. Together. Same table. Same loaf. Same cup.

It was heaven. It IS heaven!

“This IS heaven!” I thought as we communed together, in perfect community, unified by the blood of our common Savior.

But we had to leave to catch my 12:50 flight out of Fresno. So Jim and I hustled through the Bible classrooms to round up Trae and Tori for the trip to the airport. And I saw the exact same thing in the 4th grade room and in the 4-year-old room: red and yellow, black and white. Or, as Helen Dobbs would say, “Red and yellow, blackbrownandwhite!” They were all there. White. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Rich. Poor. No barriers. No segregation. No walls. No borders. The Kingdom of God. His rule. His dominion. Heaven on earth.

Allan's impression mirrors the comments shared with me by Doyle Gilliam. Doyle has worked in ministry and missions the world over for a lifetime. And yet, his impression was that the assembly of Woodward Park was unique -- a community spanning skin color, culture and language.

As Allan helped us see, our diversity poses for us a tremendous opportunity. What we take for granted living within the diversity of the Woodward Park family is seen by outsiders as a unique blessing. And with that comes a unique opportunity for mission. A unique opportunity to make a dent in Satan's stranglehold for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

I am grateful to God to be a part of the Woodward Park family and weekends such as we just experienced remind me how blessed I am.

Let's live worthy of that blessing.