our huge church turned tiny

                                                                                                                                      image source
You know when you invite a friend to church how hard it is to sit back and enjoy the service? I have had this experience so many times, praying for a good sermon, wishing the special music was more special, critiquing how long the announcements drag on. When you bring a friend to church, you want momentum. You want everyone’s best foot forward. You want the spirit to show up.

When I was growing up we called an exceptionally powerful service “a real barn burner.” It doesn’t quite translate from sports because it’s not like it was “a close game” but more that it was “an exciting service.” If I thought Dad’s sermon was above average and if the choir sang something amazing and if the Spirit was felt I’d tell my dad, “Now that was a real barn burner this morning.”

You can feel it when everything comes together.

We had a real barn burner service at Cedar Valley this morning. The whole time I was wishing I had invited every single person I know.

The worship songs were powerful, the preaching was spot on and exactly what a sermon should be. But the thing that made this service come to life was that our huge church turned tiny for a few moments in the middle. It felt like an intimate family, all thousand plus of us gathered.

I don’t think I’ve written about this before, but we are in a life group with good friends Scott and Emily. Emily announced she was pregnant right about the time Ivar was born and sometime before Christmas last year they had their first ultrasound. It was discovered that their little baby boy had his heart, liver and most of his intestines growing on the outside of this body.

Prayers and tears and hope filled lots of conversations until we got a text one night in May that Emily was going into labor. Calvin was born almost full term and for 7 ½ months lived in the ICU as doctors tried to graft new skin, stretch existing skin, and make life possible before they were able to take him home with the help of 24 hour home healthcare.

This morning at church Calvin was dedicated.

It was the very first time Rory and I have seen him in person. With the risk of germs and disease, they are obviously quite strict about who can see him. But this morning we saw Calvin with his sweet cheeks and bright eyes. We saw a living, breathing miracle. His whole life is a testimony, with two parents who have faithfully prayed for their son and a church who has rallied behind them as they walk this unimaginable road.

Calvin was dedicated and then had to leave through the back door, back to his own car to his own home. Away from all of the coughs and colds that came along with us to worship.

Then the youth pastor came up and announced that he and his wife have taken a call to a new church in Mesa. This youth pastor is beloved at our church and this was a real blow. He and his wife cried as they made the announcement and thanked this church for being their home, thanked the senior pastor for being his spiritual mentor, thanked the pastor‘s wife for the love and care she has shown their family. It was heartfelt and left you grateful for a whole multitude of things, namely the gifts these two have shared with the church and that God continues to call and lead and direct all of our steps.

And finally, Pastor Roger then took the microphone after the youth pastor sat down and announced that he was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney this week and was asking for prayer. Pastor Jerry invited all who are in need of healing to come to the altar to be anointed with oil and for prayer. Almost 100 people stood up and walked forward. The woman in front of us stood, and suddenly I realized her wig. And how frail she was. And the sadness in her husband’s face. They walked forward and I wondered how it was that I had just greeted them before church and didn’t have the eyes to see any of that. But suddenly with the holiness that had entered our church, I could see.

These three moments, one after the other, were overwhelming. Baby Calvin, Youth Pastor Jesse and Pastor Roger all brought their broken-in-need-of-a-savior-selves before the church and the church in turn reflected all of our broken-and-in-need-of-a-savior-selves right back.

Only the Holy Spirit can bring that sort of vulnerable power into a room. Only Jesus can save all of us gathered. Only God can heal our brokenness and hurting hearts.

It was a real barn burner.


Kyle Groves said...

It was very powerful - I posted some pics on my FB page of the dedication (http://www.facebook.com/kylesgroves). Seeing Scott w/that contraption on his back while Pastor Andrew held Calvin...so touching. Thx for capturing the emotion, Bec.

Lisa Groves said...

The service was a 3 Kleenex"er" , 1 after each announcement. So Powerful, Amazing & Moving. I love our church and am so excited to hear the miracles of those who responded this morning!
Thanks Bec for beautifully describing the morning.