“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. John 10:14-16 MSG
This last Sunday, as my husband and I sat together congregated in our particular house of worship, I wept. My dear man, handed me his handkerchief as he is growing accustomed. We felt the presence of the Lord with us in a way that felt like a father coming home from a long journey.
I’ve been asking. We’ve been asking. I’m sure many in our congregation, especially our new pastor, have been pleading – “Father, we need You!” The parched air and the famine season of bearing such little fruit has caused us to cry out to the Lord.
“Come Holy Spirit You are welcome here. Please come and bring a down pour of all we need to break this drought.”
If this experience was isolated to our one congregation, I would not be able to use words like drought and famine. One brown, dying yard in a neighborhood full of flourishing yards indicates a very specific problem. The truth is that our church story is not uncommon.
We, my dear man and I, have the privilege of relationship with many brothers and sisters in Christ who congregate in various Christ centered fellowships throughout our local area. Many of our believing friends have experienced similar drought and a lack of fruit bearing during an extended season. It’s been difficult and even painful to walk in hope and JOY through this barren time. However, we have stumbled upon a practice, which has produced hope in us to believe the famine is only for a season.
We’ve stumbled, but now looking back I feel sure it was God’s plan all along, and more so, His provision which has led us this way. We’ve made a practice of visiting with small groups of friends from different congregations over dinner quarterly and weekly for prayer and Bible study. I attend a monthly prayer group of which I am the only member of a different congregation. My dear man keeps up with and prays for his family and college friends via email and Facebook.
None the same; gathered as one.
The extraordinarily beautiful and prosperous fruit tree which has grown up in the middle of this practice is a body of faith. We are none the same, but frequently gathered together to share in the abundant fruit of the Spirit of God. We have needed it – desperately needed this – during the most challenging season of our lives. The prayers of the saints have been powerful and effective, but even more so tenacious for us (all of us) to witness breakthrough after breakthrough.
The planned one service, which we experienced this past Sunday, was a beautiful mixture of our English speaking congregation along with a new Hispanic church congregation meeting in our same building. Talk about none the same, gathered as one!
From the coupled Spanish and English music, to the stirring baptism celebration and ending with the sermon in Spanish translated into English and ASL*; this was truly one of my favorite worship services in a number of years. As our Spanish and English voices, along with many signing, melded together, I was transported back to Miami, the place my heart calls home. The multicultural richness enveloped in one family brought me to tears.
None the same; gathered as one!
As I look back over the last month, I recognize that the glorious celebration we just experienced in our home church actually began for us three weeks previous. We were staying in an AirBnb over 2,100 miles from home, and on our way into town Google plotted our path right past a very inviting church**. The orange banners whirling in the arid breeze, green grass and palm trees presented a picture of an oasis in the middle of a very brown, dry desert landscape.
We took note on Friday and planned to visit on Sunday. After spending a couple of adventurous days in 100+ degree heat, we arrived at the church hoping to worship Jesus with brothers and sisters we had never met and probably won’t see again until Heaven. As we walked through the welcoming committee, we were invited to open seats.
As our eyes adjusted and our bodies embraced the cool air, the familiar music filled our ears. As the words, “Your a Good, Good Father” moved from my ears to my heart, a flood of tears ran from my eyes and dripped from my chin. I couldn’t sing for the enormous lump in my throat.
As my dear man handed me his handkerchief, I simply listened and cried. The overwhelming goodness of God materialized within me like a tall cool glass of clear water. The JOY of the Lord filled me with hope as I realized He had prompted His kids in California to greet His kids from Georgia with this song from home.
And more than that, with the next song from Elevation Worship*** (also birthed on the East Coast) our Good, Good Father reminded my dear man and I that He is always with us. Great is His faithfulness. He never fails. Whether we feel stuck at home or roam far across His creation, He sees us. He knows us. He’s moving mountains on our behalf. Christ, as our Pioneer, is making a way for us where there seems to be no way.
The dryness of our hearts finally cracked through with tears flowing deep. Our brothers and sisters out there in California may never know how they ministered to us that day. The Lord Himself is pleased though as He orchestrated the gathering of His children from coast to coast.
None the same; gathered as one!
That’s the way I see it. What do you think?
Eyes on Jesus and SHINE!