This post is a little wandering; brace yourself for a journey through
the many thoughts that have been swirling around in my head!
With the approaching Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I requested some picture books from the library about Dr. King to read with Elizabeth and looked up activity ideas online. One suggestion was to make a paper chain using skin colored papers or the standard "red and yellow, black and white." Using an idea from Christmas, a wreath made from green paper hand prints, we made a wreath of different colored hands and I hung these verses from Revelation 7:9-10 in the middle:
After this I looked and there before me was
a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people, and
language, standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing
white robes and were holding palm brances
in their hands. And they cried out
in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."
Another suggestion was to visit an alternate house of worship: if you're Methodist, attend a Baptist church or if you don't go to worship on Sundays, try a church. I thought this was a fascinating idea, there's a large African Methodist Episcopal church around the corner from ours I'd be interested in attending sometime. Unfortunately, this week I was helping out in a kid's class, so we couldn't miss being with our congregation. But I've got the idea in the back of my head for the future.
Yesterday as I was preparing to go to church, I was thinking about the idea of worshiping with other believers of different nations, tribes, peoples, and languages, reflecting on Revelation 7:9-10 and thinking about what Dr. King fought for during his short days walking the earth. And I was thinking about how we're often drawn to local congregations that have an order of worship and style of music that's comfortable for us, often influenced by what we grew up with. I don't think there's anything wrong with this, as long as you're not accusing the brother's and sisters up the street of being "wrong" if they do or don't use an organ, a band, or only sing a capella.* The reality is that none of it approaches the perfection that will be achieved in the worship of our Great God when we're all standing before His throne with all of the believers, from all of time, from all over the world!
This set me to wondering what it will be like, when we're before the throne of God. What will the tune be? Will we all be worshiping in the style that comes naturally to us and they'll create the most beautiful harmony, bringing great glory to God? Or will we all be worshiping in Spirit and in Truth in a blissful way we never even knew possible this side of heaven - more beautiful, more glorious, exactly as God would be and should be worshiped by His redeemed people?!
We don't know.
But we do know we will worship!
We will no longer be distracted by the things of this world, by the sin that so easily entangles, by the fears and doubts that prevent us from loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbor as ourself.
For the time being, we will continue to look to the Scriptures and the guidance of the Spirit to instruct our hearts and minds and guide our worship. We will repent of our sin and believe the Good News - Jesus died once for all, that we may be brought near to God. And, thinking about Dr. King and loving our neighbor, we can get to know believers of other nations, tribes, peoples, languages, ... and even denominations, and learn more about the depth, breadth, width, and height of God's love. We'll be spending eternity together, right? Might as well start getting to know each other now!
Even apart from Martin Luther King Day, the Spirit's been impressing upon me lately that Christians are bound together by Christ, no matter where they're from, what church they attend, what work they do, how smart they are, or what kind of car they drive. We are connected on a deep level and we need each other. It's worth saying a few embarrassing things and having our minds stretched a little, to get to know more of the heart of God and be bound together with fellow believers, with cords that cannot be broken. Without Christ, there's no other hope for this kind of connection. He is the great Reconciler, the great Healer, the Prince of Peace.
Dr. King and those who bravely would not accept the evil status quo amaze me! So much progress was made in such a short time. Today I'm thankful for God's work in and through Dr. King. But as we look at the state of inequality & injustice that is still prevalent in our nation, one can feel angry or hopeless or both. Thankfully, our God promises to make all things new (Isaiah 65:17 & Revelation 21.) Resting on this hope, we can move forward to bring a little more peace, a little more justice, a little more equality, as we, His people, focus on loving God and our neighbor, and we keep praying, "Come, Lord Jesus."
*I'm thinking here more about how we're divided my matters of preference, and not usually defending standards of worship clearly established in the Bible.