Wow! Wow!! WOW!!!
Yesterday, the Sunday Christians around the world celebrated the Resurrection of Christ, was an amazing, most blessed day for yours truly!
(I say "Christians around the world" but I seem to remember that Eastern Orthodox believers calculate the dating for the Resurrection differently from Roman Catholics and Protestants. And that their date is, shall we say, more in line with Biblical data. But let's set this aside -- since I myself haven't investigated this thoro'ly.)
So Sunday the Fourth of April in the Year of Our Lord 2010 passed in a most sublimely beautiful fashion here in Nashville. Put another way, Resurrection Day was unforgettable!
It began with a bus trip to downtown, to First Lutheran Church for their 7:00 sunrise service. Arriving early, before the doors were even open, I walked the two blocks down the street (Eight Ave. S.) to the Greyhound depot, to break my fast with a donut and coffee. As I walked back to the church about 7:40 I looked to my right and saw that the sun was just above the horizon in a beautifully blue sky. Immediately my mind heard Steve Wariner singing "Life's Hiway", and I considered what a fitting song it is for sunrise on Resurrection Day:
. The sun is up, time's at hand.
. There's a stir across the land.
. And so begins another day, on life's hiway.
. There is hope at every turn,
. A bridge to build, a bridge to burn.
. Here's hoping you. . . never go astray On life's hiway.
As with last year, the sunrise service at the Lutheran Church featured a chamber orchestra. This year they were a few strings, two trombones and two trumpets. One of their prelude numbers was Back's "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" -- remember how yours truly really likes J.S. Bach. During the worship itself the group's special music included at one point two short movements from "Messiah" (Handel), and at the conclusion of the service traditionally anyone in the congregation is invited to come up and join the choir in singing "Hallelujah" from "Messiah". Last year I passed on this. But yesterday I considered how I'd sung the bass part of "Hallelujah" in a church choir in Fort Worth years ago, and I went up.
Let me tell you, dear reader, it turned out to be an exquisite sensation to sing that oh, so familiar Baroque-style praise song to conclude the sunrise service!
After grabbing some breakfast in the Lutheran fellowship hall I got on the bus and headed to my church, Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) for our (tradition-time) worship. We in the choir sang not one but TWO Anthems, the second during the offertory; both terrific celebrations of Christ's Resurrection. And Pastor Jay delivered a most appropriate sermon, "Eureka!" The sanctuary was filled (ALMOST standing room only); we had several visitors, most relatives visiting member families, I think. Many little girls wore beautiful, brightly colored new dresses, as did some of the women. And lots of the men were in suits and ties (a few, I presume newly bought for the holiday).
After Worship we had an egg hunt for the children, and I stood around in the pleasant sunshine chatting with various members and visitors. Then I made my way across town to the Kroger in Green Hills. While I ate my salad I watched about the last third of the Cavs at Boston Celtics game. The Celtics, ahead by 22 points, let the Cavs catch up in the final quarter, and even get ahead, but managed to pull out a home victory! Very exciting. The ESPN channel kept notifying that the next game was San Antonio versus the Lakers, my favorite Team versus my least. I debated about hanging around to watch or going out to enjoy the beautiful day
Beautiful day won, and I made my way down 21st Avenue to the Vanderbilt University campus. After a brief stop in the library to check e-mail, I strolled across the campus and into Centennial Park. Once I'd crossed it to the 25th Ave. side, I saw that I had some twenty minutes before the bus would come along, and there was a wooden picnic table nearby. Therefore I took off my coat, shirt and necktie, lay down on the table and caught some rays. Aa-hh-hh-hh!
When the bus came along I got on (re-clothed, of course) and rode to downtown and then out Murfreesboro Road to Una Church of Christ. I'd been to an evening (weekday or Sunday) service there at least once before. Unlike Hart Street Church of Christ which I attend most Fourth Sunday evenings for the singing school, Una C of C is an Anglo congregation, but with a sister Spanish-speaking congregation meeting there too. At both churches of Christ I get the "feel" that it's more "open" than may be stereotypical for our non-instrumental brethren. Put another way, I like both congregations (and hope that they accept this Disciples of Christ visitor as much as I accept them).
Brother Todd Elliott, the preaching minister, met me near the door shortly after I entered, and remembered me from my earlier visit (or visits). I like this in a preacher at a church I visit more than once -- wish that had been my gift, too, in my pastoring years! Bro. Elliott was nicely attired in a dark blue suit, medium blue shirt and colorful reddish necktie. I was rather surprised that he and I were almost the only men present who wore suits and ties. Later I remembered this had been the case on my earlier visit(s), and that it contrasts sharply with Hart Street, where nearly all the men and teenage boys wear ties, most of them with coats. Oh, well, perhaps the brethren of African heritage are simply more into "looking good for the Lord" as they worship Him?
Anyhow, the service started out with a cappella singing of four hymns (apparently a standard worship feature among the non-instrumental congregations). One of these was our co-founding leader Alexander Campbell's slight revision of the great and classic hymn "Holy, Holy,Holy, Lord God Almighty". Bro. Campbell dropped the final line of the first and fourth verses and substituted the more New Testament conforming "God over all and blest eternally". I like that, and since one never encounters it in Disciples of Christ hymnals, it was a real treat to sing it!
Bro. Elliott's message was in its way a real treat, too. He didn't focus on the Resurrection of Jesus, which didn't surprise me, since I know of Churches of Christ that don't even acknowledge any special day annually, focusing instead on every Sunday as celebration of our Savior's Resurrection. (If you don't know, the first day of the week replaced the seventh as the day for disciples of Jesus to gather for worship because they felt His Resurrection on the first day was the start of the New Creation.) Instead, he called our attention to Romans 8:12-17, where St. Paul is delving into life lived in the Spirit, including the Spirit confirming us as children of God who call to him, "Abba, Father!" Bro. Elliott emphasized how RADICAL life in the Spirit really is, using as an illustration the story of Jesus observing the giving of offerings in the Temple and commending the widow who gave the only two tiny coins she had to live on. He confessed that he himself wasn't sure he could BE that radical, and by giving away all his earnings throw himself on the providence of God our Father! He also included passages from the Apostle's letters to the Colossians (3:7-11) and to Titus (2:11-14) in his exposition of the radical nature of living by and/or in the Spirit.
What got me about his message is that I've been confronted with this same theme, certainly in writings of notable Christian leaders. In fact, I kept thinking of that great Church of Christ brother back in San Antonio, Max Lucado, while listening to Bro. Elliott. I told him this as I was leaving, and I trust he took it as a compliment. Certainly, coming from yours truly, comparison of any preacher with Bro. Lucado IS a great compliment, as much as I esteem him.
And so, as the sun was setting in a bright golden sunset, my Resurrection Day celebration came to an end at the third worship in as many churches. And yes, I celebrated the spectrum of worship styles, from the highly liturgical Lutheran sunrise service (heavily Baroque-classical-traditional music, altho' there was one song by contemporary Christian artist Twila Paris) to the somewhat liturgical Eastwood (Disciples) morning service, to the "free-style" (non-liturgical) Una Church of Christ. That's just the way I am. I enjoy a wide variety of worship styles, and simply getting together with brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of their cultural background and tastes in worship styles, to simply love one another and worship the God who loved us so much that He gave His Son "as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45) and then on the third day raised the Son from the dead. To God and to the Lamb be the glory! Amen.