Sunday at Knox

Joining with Michelle at “Graceful” and LL at “Seedlings in Stone” today:

On In Around button
We sat in the back row yesterday. Something I never do, accustomed as I am to the front row for so many years. Visiting churches since my retirement has been such an interesting experience, and this one we’ve been to about three times now – it’s our favorite so far. Only problem? It’s about 115 miles from our home and that makes for a pretty rough commute.

This is the church our middle daughter’s family has found in their wanderings of late, the one they now call home and where she is serving as a newly elected elder. Four years ago, it was in the throes of imminent death, having shrunk to fewer than 30 people. Then, in a last gasp of Holy Spirit power, they called a new pastor. Matt is a young, calm, careful, intelligent, committed man who has built a small staff consisting mostly of interns from the nearby seminary. And he’s a man whose wife is as smart and dedicated as he is and who sings (and plays the penny whistle!) for the worship team.
Yesterday, there were forty children down front for the children’s sermon and about 170 adults leaning in to hear. The young woman who leads worship chose music with a Celtic bent and the service was marked by meaningful liturgy coupled with a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere. After some opening announcements and the passing of the peace, the worship began with an a cappella quartet singing, “What Wondrous Love Is This?” and then we all joined in as the opening hymn began….“Come, O Spirit, dwell among us, come with resurrection power…” I was in tears by the second line.
The church is an A-frame, slightly 60’s in flavor, and this week they had a huge, shimmering purple satin drape on the cross. Every member of the up-front leadership (pastor/preacher/worship leader) wore a shade of purple to mark the season of Lent, even though they were casually dressed. Nothing was said, but those of us who appreciate such thoughtfulness were blessed by it, drawn by this careful, quiet attention to detail into a fuller and richer experience of worship.
In our previous visits, we have enjoyed Matt’s preaching very much indeed – but this week, the pastoral intern was given the pulpit. A former IVP editor, graduate of Regent and current student at Fuller, Kristie did a stunning job with a text I have seldom heard preached: Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37.
I am grateful for and blessed by any good, thoughtful, careful preaching – anywhere, anytime. But I must admit, I am especially glad to hear such preaching in a female voice. Maybe because I don’t hear it very often, maybe because I know how hard it is to preach, maybe because I’m just plain grateful to God for raising up a generation of women who can proclaim the gospel with power and precision and love – love for the Word, both written and Living, and love for the church.
She noted Gerald Sittser’s magnificent book from 15 years ago – “A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss” (still one of the best things out there for helping people grapple with suffering and the sovereignty of God) at the beginning and end of her message – doing this former homiletics TA’s heart good – always appreciate good use of inclusio. In between, she exegeted and applied the text very well indeed. She preached it!
The offertory was a song newly created by the worship leader and sung so well by the team. And the time of community prayer was lovely, as it has been each time we’ve participated in worship here. Sharing of praise and petition is encouraged and skillfully guided by the leader – we’ve seen several different staff members do this well – everyone responds liturgically and then a closing prayer of ‘summation’ is offered on behalf of us all. Several of the churches we’ve visited this year have done sharing and prayer in this way and we have been moved by it each time.
When I offered thanks and praise to each member of the leadership team following the service, their response to me was almost identical: “We have such a good time here, we love working together and we love creating a service that flows together thematically.” This is a gift to the body that is breathtakingly precious – and rare. We were privileged to experience it, to see and hear and sing and say words of hope and promise and genuine worship in a part of Christ’s body that is healthy and growing, in every sense of the word.
The gift I brought to Monday from Sunday’s experience was a precious one for me right now – hope. Hope from the word as it was powerfully preached and hope from the entirety of the worship experience: a burst of joyful, grateful hope for the future of the church of Jesus Christ in this time, this culture. God is not finished building the body, Christ has not abandoned the Bride. So I gladly move into this new week, cradling hope in my heart, confident that the work of new creation continues and thrives….maybe even in me.

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Comments

  1. That does sound like a wonderful church — too bad it’s so far away. And clearly the people recognize the Spirit moving there — how wonderful that its membership has grown from 30 to 170, with so many young families. Sounds like a refreshing and rejuvinating way to start the weeek!

  2. I would have loved the penny whistle and Celtic flavor and shades of purple! I loved visiting through your eyes and the cradle of hope!

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