Thirty minutes before our Easter Sunday worship service was set to live-stream from an empty auditorium yesterday morning, I walked in to discover that it wasn’t really empty at all. Scattered throughout our worship center, in every one of the ten sections, from front to back, were pictures of our church members pinned to the pews.
I’m not exactly sure who started it — I have become aware of at least one key player whose initials are Lori Stone — but I’m guessing it was in response to a short video devotional we sent out to the church family Wednesday night in which I panned the empty worship center with the camera and talked about where people sit. I talked about missing people. I talked about knowing where people sit and how much they mean to me when I see them each Sunday. I reminded them that I know where most of them sit and I’m going to be doing my best on Easter Sunday to picture each one of them in their regular seats, worshiping together in that big empty room.
And, then, yesterday morning, there they were.
Somehow between Thursday and yesterday, they took their selfies, blew them up, printed them off, and collected them and placed them in the worship center without me knowing anything about it. Some of them are family pictures taken out of old directories. Some are individual pictures placed side-by-side in that family’s pew. Some of the pictures are serious and some of them are just stinkin’ funny. On the front row of the youth section, there’s Grant and the two Joshes; Stoney, of course, is wearing a military gas mask. There’s Lanny and Gina with an encouraging note. Is that Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards next to Faith Dowell? There’s Tommy and Wendy shouting, “Amen!” And there’s Bradley Bledsoe. Sound asleep. I love it!
What an unexpected and tremendous blessing from our God! What an incredible shot in the arm! What an inspiration! To think that so many people would go so far out of their way to make that happen on such short notice! Just to bless Kevin and me. Just to do whatever they could to encourage us.
I was really moved by the display. It was unexpectedly emotional for me. I had to run to the chapel and pray it off so I wouldn’t be a sobbing wreck for the Welcome and Call to Worship. I think it just reminded me so starkly how important our relationships are together in God’s Church. Being together — living and worshiping and serving together — is such a vital part of what it means to follow Christ, what it means to be his Church. I was reminded that we are all in this thing together. We’re connected. We really do belong to each other. I know their stories and they know mine and we’re doing what we can together to get through a really rotten time.
To everyone who placed their pictures in the worship center, thank you! It means the world to me. And to our God who allows me the great privilege and blessing to be the preacher at Central, thank you! To you, Father, belong all glory and praise!