It got weird for me during communion on Sunday. And it happened so fast that I’m still not really sure what it was.
Our first Sunday here at Central as the new preaching minister was a swirling blur of brand new people and faces and names, exciting experiences and Spirit-filled worship, and undeniable proof that we have made the right decision in joining this group of believers up here in the panhandle. It began before Bible class as Carrie-Anne and the girls and I jumped in to help serve breakfast to more than a hundred of the needy and poor of this downtown community at Central’s Upreach Center. And it ended with an area-wide worship assembly at the Southwest Church of Christ where the singing was inspirational and the fellowship divine. In between, there were two meals shared with two different groups of new friends, roughly three hundred handshakes and hugs, and a thrilling chance to address our new congregation and thank them for their warm hospitality and friendly welcome.
But something happened during communion.
As we were sharing the bread and the cup with our new church, my thoughts went straight to our former church. If I were communing at Legacy, I would have felt John’s hand on my shoulder from the pew behind me. I would have heard Tom’s whispered “Thank you, Jesus” from my left. I would have made a funny face at Shannon and Audrey to my right. And I would have smiled as I watched Tommy and Drew and Valerie and Sebrina pass the trays in front of me.
This Sunday, it was all new. It was Craig sitting behind me. I had hugged him before church began and I could hear him singing. It was Steve and Judy sitting next to us, exchanging smiles. “The body of Christ broken for you.” “The blood of Christ given for you.” I found myself making faces at little Elise two rows up.
I stared up at the massive wooden beams that rise from the tops of the walls to the center of the stained glass dome of our worship center. It’s beautiful. It’s stunning. People who have been here a long time jokingly refer to it as “the vortex.” Some say it makes the outside of the building look like a sombrero. But I love it. It speaks to the transcendence of our great God. It expresses our desires to reach him, to offer ourselves to him, to be near him. I think it also conveys our hopes for unity: every person in every corner of the room, brought to the Father and united to one another in and by and through the One True and Living Way.
Looking around at all of this, taking it all in, soaking it all up, my eyes welled with tears.
How great is our God?!? How amazing is this heavenly Father who somehow has deemed me worthy? Despite my inadequacies and shortcomings and failures — my sins! — he thinks I am valuable enough to make me his partner in this new work in this new church. (This new church that’s been in this same spot in downtown Amarillo for over a hundred years!) Our God is doing a new thing here, an exciting thing, a Kingdom thing. And he’s got me right here in the middle of it. I can’t believe it. It’s truly incredible! All these new people. All these new works. New opportunities for service. New avenues for God’s mercy and grace. New places to find God’s forgiveness and salvation. New ways to share his spectacular gifts of eternal life. And he’s got me in some kind of a leadership role here!
I don’t deserve it. I can’t fathom all these blessings. I can’t begin to comprehend all the good that’s coming my way. I don’t know why God thinks he can use me to fulfill his eternal purposes here. It makes no earthly sense.But he does. He really does.
And I just became overwhelmed.
He has forgiven me. He has lavished his great love on me and called me his child. His son. That is what I am!
Carrie-Anne looked at me and asked, “Are you OK?”
Through my tears I said, “No, I don’t think I am.”
And she said, “Do you want a mint from Coleman?”
Carrie-Anne reached into her purse and pulled out a familiar individually-wrapped peppermint from the Legacy candy man. Coleman Archer has been the candy man at Legacy for decades. Mints and Peppermint Patties and Krackel. Sometimes he would throw them at me across the concourse. Usually he would hand them to me along with a kind and encouraging word.
I popped the mint in my mouth and my thoughts raced back to our old church.
I was blessed there, too. More than I could ever possibly ask or imagine. Much more than I could ever hope to deserve. I didn’t know what I was getting into there when I first started at Legacy. But it was good. It was very good.
Of the hundreds of people I met after church here at Central Sunday on this first Sunday, one of the firsts was Pattie Archer. Coleman’s daughter-in-law. She and her husband Kelly, Coleman’s son, have been here at Central for a long time. Pattie didn’t give me any candy. But she gave me a smile and a hug and told me how glad she was that we were here.
Yeah. Me, too.