Sitting in church again. A church we have only visited one other time a couple of years ago, so not a church that offered alot of "Hey, how are you?" and "Glad to see you at church today!" comments. In fact, none at all. Chappy and I quietly settled into a seat and waited on the service to begin wondering how many people in the building realized what a gift it is to be able to attend church. Probably most took the experience for granted the way I used to.
"God speak to me"......"Father, I want to hear from You."
The pastor began to introduce himself and kick off the service. The thought entered my mind as I looked at him: "Do you realize there are actually people sitting here who are hoping to hear from God today? And do you realize you have been given the awesome gift to be the Almighty's mouthpiece to someone today?" The pastor seemed so relaxed---you know how you "size up" a pastor (or any speaker for that matter) when he is new to you. I know nothing about his life or background at all, so I watched him intently. Humility? Yes, I could see that. Joy? Yes, I noticed that too. But if the pastor was going to be able to dig deep and impart the Word of God to the hundreds seated in the room was yet to be seen.
Baptism. Baby dedication. Worship music. Meet and Greet your neighbor.
Finally, it became sermon time.
I have already forgotten the first half of the sermon. The pastor used stories mixed with a bit of humor to make his point, and while entertaining, it did not hold much meaning for me. Laughter in the moment, but now distant from my mind.
A whisper of my heart: "Lord, please, life is really difficult right now---I don't want to laugh today, I want to be inspired."
I noticed a change in the tone of the pastor's voice. No longer a man attempting to entertain a crowd, his voice softened to that of a man wishing to tell a story. He began:
(My Paraphrase) There was a great battle where two very important men were killed: a king and his son, direct heir to the throne. The younger of the two, the heir to the throne, had a young son who was being cared for by a nurse, and after learning his father had been killed in battle, the nurse feared the enemy would seek out the boy and kill him as well. In haste, she gathered the boys' things and ran out with him to hide. In the scurry, the boy fell and broke both of his ankles....as a result, he became crippled for life.
In those days, a crippled person was thought of as less than human with no value to anyone; tragically, the boys' life went from being heir to the high throne to the lowest position of society.
It turns out, the warrior who had been killed was very best friends with another great warrior. Their friendship was the kind every human being who has ever lived longs for, but only few find. The friend of the fallen heir became ruler and king obtaining both wealth and incredible success. One day, many years later, he thought of his best friend. Probably, he spent the day recounting memories that made him laugh and miss the fellowship the two had shared. Reminiscing, the king asked his servants: "Is there anyone left in the line of my beloved friend that I could show kindness toward?" There was. As it turned out, the king's beloved friend who had died long ago had had a son who was still alive.
"Bring him to me immediately", the king said with excitement.
Imagine the anticipation. The man had been king for many years. He had led battles, seen his men rise and fall, been a decision maker for throngs of people....the stress had surely worn on him over the years and possibly showed in the lines tracing his face. To have the opportunity to remember his younger years again through the meeting of his best friend's own son must have energized the great king and brought him joy beyond measure. The thought: "I wonder if he looks like his father?" must have gone through his mind a thousand times as he waited.
When the crippled man was ushered into the king, full of humility and fear, it must have been a sight to behold. The crippled man entered the king's room and fell on his face, prostrate before the king. Then, the unthinkable happened. The mighty king called the crippled man by name. Tenderly.
Can you fathom what the handicapped man must have felt in that moment? Can you picture the bewildered look upon his face? To all of society, he was of no value. In fact, he called himself a "dead dog".....Yet the king called him by name. The crippled man answered: "I am your servant." And from here, I envision the great king kneeling down in front of the humble man, looking deep into his eyes, and touching his shoulders as he said these words: "Don't be afraid, for I will surely show kindness to you for your father's sake and will restore everything that has been lost back to you. Please, join me at my table."
The story can be found in 2 Samuel chapter 9....it is the story of David and Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth.
In the church on Sunday, surrounded by hundreds of strangers, I literally balled my eyes out. Shoulders shaking and snot running down my face, I embraced God's message to me through the story of David and Mephibosheth. The message of God's kindness.
In all of the chaos of life over the last five years, I had forgotten. Constantly on guard for the next piece of bad news about Hopey's heart, God had become Someone I feared. Like the crippled man, I have been guilty of spending too much time face down on the floor hoping the great King won't kick me or hurt me. On Sunday morning, however, in a factory building turned into a sanctuary, through a pastor I don't even know.....God offered me His kindness and asked me to get up off the floor and join Him at His table. He offered me His ever-loving-kindness. He reminded me, and I remembered.
Today, Oswald Chambers' book: "My Utmost For His Highest" said a mouthful. In short: "We tend to think if Jesus compels us to do something, and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success; but His purposes may be the opposite. What He desires is that I see Him walking on the sea in the storm of my life---with no shore, no success, no goal in sight---the process, not the outcome, is glorifying to God."
We serve a very kind God----embrace his kindness with me this day.