A voice jolted me awake early one Sunday morning, both silent but deafening, beckoning me to church. Ignoring the first request, a second one pushed me out of bed and towards the closet. Hung-over, I tossed myself into a seldom worn suit and drove to the church of my childhood, my thoughts amused and awakened by the power of that voice. I hadn’t set foot in that sanctuary for a few years but at that moment, a minute late and still in the parking lot, I smiled in wonder.
As I entered the front doors, I could hear the muffled sounds of that magnificent organ behind the closed doors to the sanctuary. On my way up the stairs, the music stopped, replaced by a familiar voice from my youth. As I opened the door and entered the room, the face of the voice at the pulpit was clear. He was in mid-sentence, mentioning me by name as I took my seat. Surprising us both, the speaker said, “and here he is now, hello Bob.” That speaker, Kurt, a childhood friend that had grown up with me at this church, was the guest speaker that morning. I’m sure everyone in that church thought we had planned this, but we had not. I hadn’t seen Kurt in over 10 years. My name was mentioned in his opening remarks as he rattled off a litany of people that were there as children and gone as adults. Kurt went on to share the story of his growing up in the church and his long departure and how years of absence had now made his return something more meaningful. His story was my story.
This all took place over 30 years ago. The event was a watershed moment in my life but it wasn’t by any stretch the end of a struggle or the beginning of a gracious life of piety, I wish I could report otherwise. What it did was to cement my faith in the power of the Spirit. That voice, pestering me, the guest speaker that Sunday, his message and his timing, all of that was a gift from the Holy Spirit to me, most undeserved, but granted non-the-less; how could that not have changed my life?
I hope to be that voice for you today. Re-examine the worship traditions of your own history and if that’s not possible, then I am inviting you to my church next Sunday and every Sunday. The magnificent building at the corner of Floral Avenue and Main Street, next to the arch in Johnson City, is where this happened to me. Our service is traditional and our numbers are small, but our pastor is a man gifted by God to be an inspiration, and at 10AM on any Sunday, you are invited to share that gift with me.
I can’t promise you the same kind of grand entrance I received some 30 years ago, but I can guarantee you the grace of God before you go.
Port Dickinson, NY