I am just about beside myself with anticipation over what our God is going to do this Wednesday evening when Golf Course Road Church of Christ and First Presbyterian Church of Midland come together for our first ever joint Ash Wednesday service. I didn’t really know what to expect from our side – we CofC’ers don’t do Ash Wednesday, it’s the kind of thing we’ve historically dismissed as extra-biblical and borderline innovative. I wasn’t sure how many people from GCR would dive into this “new” experience of an ancient Christian practice. But I’m hearing the buzz. People here are talking. Some of our Life Groups are attending the event together. At least one Bible class here is going. Our teenagers are heading to First Pres together and planning to debrief it as a group when it’s over. Some of our people are going out of curiosity, some are doing it because they’ve been invited by a friend at First Pres, others are going because they’ll do anything if it means cooperating publicly with another Christian congregation. The bottom line is that a good number of our folks appear to be excited to do something they’ve never done before.
I believe our God is going to do something really big with this. I believe this Ash Wednesday service is going to be bigger than you think and have larger and longer lasting impacts than you can even imagine. Let me give you two reasons.
Number one, God wants to transform us. He wants to make you and me more into the image of his Son Jesus. He won’t force it on us, he won’t take over and do something you don’t want to do. But if you’ll give him just a crack, if you’ll say “Yes” to him just a little, his Holy Spirit will change you and shape you to be more like Christ: more loving, more kind, more forgiving, more gracious, more welcoming, more prayerful, more generous, more accepting, more service-oriented; more of the mind of Christ in considering the needs of others more important than your own.
Stepping outside of your own comfort zone, trying something new in the name and the manner of Jesus, is the best way to open yourself up to transformation. Engaging the Bible in a different way, praying at a different time, worshiping with different Christians, is one powerful way to make yourself available to God to do whatever he wants to do with you.
Here’s the attitude: Lord, this Ash Wednesday thing is something a majority of your people have been doing every year for at least eighteen-and-a-half centuries. I’ve never done it before. I’m going to try it. I’m going to participate in this ancient Christian practice and I’m going to be totally open and available to whatever you want to do. Open my ears and my heart to hear what you want to tell me. Open my eyes and my very soul to see what you want to show me.
You don’t think God can do something with that?
The second thing is that a Church of Christ and a Presbyterian Church worshiping and serving together as one holy, united Body of Christ is a powerful proclamation of God’s will. We know Jesus died on the cross to break down all the walls, to destroy all the barriers between us and God and between us and each other. Our Lord passionately prayed that all of his followers would be one, so the world would believe. Putting aside whatever differences we think we might have in order to worship together the Lord who makes us one is an answer to Christ’s prayer and a fulfillment of God’s will.
All it takes is a phone call to realize the truth of this.
I called the pastor at First Pres, Steve Schorr, three weeks ago and just floated the possibility of GCR attending their Ash Wednesday service, and he almost exploded on the other end of the line. He talked for the next ten minutes without letting me get in a word. He enthusiastically embraced the idea and kept adding onto it. It’ll be a joint service! We’ll promote it together! You’ll help with the service! It’ll be both our churches on all the ads and promotional materials. We’ll structure it so we give a brief history of Ash Wednesday during the service! What else can we do to really pull this off?
All it takes is a phone call to express some Christian unity and cooperation and God’s Spirit jumps in and lights it up. Things start to move almost independently. Important things are happening before you even have time to think. It takes on a life of its own or, to say it better, it takes on a holy momentum in the eternal will of our God. Our God wants things like this to happen. All we have to do it show a little interest and he’ll do all the rest.
Because the witness to our community will be powerful and undeniable.
Anytime different churches do anything together it makes front page news – anytime the Church of Christ does anything with anybody it makes front page news! When we worship and serve with other brothers and sisters from other Christian denominations, it’s a loud and proud declaration in three-inch headlines to our Midland community and to all of West Texas that we belong to a King who is bigger and whose mission in this world is more important than anything that might possibly divide us. If we can do something like this, then surely we must be following a real Prince of Peace.
Transformation and proclamation. That’s what’s in store for us together at First Pres this Wednesday night. I can’t wait for us to experience it together.