Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent 2011 Week Three: Apostles Visit (and JOY)

We went home today.
Columbia home. 
Uncle Bryan and Aunt Ginny home. 
Seeing all the Hatches home.

Church of the Apostles home. 

And, oh, it felt so good to see those familial faces and feel in person those familial hugs.  We love all of our family and we miss living close enough to see them every week.  But what made it even more special was seeing genuine joy on their faces at the sight of us. 

It's honestly the mutual joy of being real together, of having life together, that makes each place home. 

What's funny is that in all of our church hopping lately, we miss the preaching and teaching of the clergy at Church of the Apostles.  So, ironically, we ended up visiting on a day that they had a guest speaker.  This guest, Wesley Hill, started talking, and he didn't sound like home.  He sounded comfortable and polished and all together, but he didn't sound like what I had come for.  I found myself looking at my husband, with me thinking, "Damn it, every Sunday we keep hearing all these smart professory people, and my husband is just soaking it all in."  I also found myself assuming that the reason God kept sending me to intellectual sermons was because He needed to talk to my husband and He needed me to sit still and be supportive.  I seriously doubted there being any purpose to today's message and me. 

But, I figured, since I was already there, I might as well try to pay attention.  I mean, I can be smart too if I want to be.

When Wesley Hill finished, the man sitting next to me abruptly got up and left immediately after the sermon and never came back.  I had been so immersed in myself and my thoughts that I started wondering if the way I had been leaning in to hear the speaker over the air conditioner had offended my neighbor in some way.  I did not consider that maybe he HAD actually listened - all the way from the beginning - to the speaker and been rattled by it or had something in his life that needed his attention. 

So, a few minutes later, when a man walked in and sat down in the seat my previous neighbor had just abandoned, I figured I should be nice.  After a few minutes I handed him my program so he could follow the rest of the service.  I explained that we would have communion.  And when he asked if he could also take communion, I explained that it was, indeed, open to all baptized people.  I also invited him the go to the altar to receive a blessing if he was not, after all, baptized. 

And this is when God laughed at me.

This sweet humble man proclaimed in the most beautiful accent (Kenyan, it turned out) that he was born again.  He was joyful to receive communion.  He then asked me what the message for the day had said, being that he was visiting for the first time and had gotten the service time wrong and missed it.  So I summarized that stranger in the pulpit's sermon.

The Kenyan, well, he quietly whispered, "Amen."

And he smiled. 

That is when I heard God's laughter.

God also whispered to me, "Welcome."

Truly, for now and maybe always, Apostles is home.

Because of our friends. 
Because of the messages we hear - even the ones delivered through the voices of the guests.   
Because when we walk in the doors, God's grace meets us. 

And most of all, because it is where I can hear God laughing. 

And that, my friend, is reason for joy.

**Coincidentally, week three of Advent stands for JOY in liturgical churches.**


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