Actually, I need Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples) every Sunday morning, plus choir again Wednesday evenings. Those of my FB Friends living in Nashville who have never been to ECC(DC), really must pay a visit! If you're seeking a place where people really love one another in the John 13 and I Corinthians 13 way and who live out the Master's teachings about service, self-denial and doing good unconditionally, then 1604 Eastland Ave. in ZIP 37206 is THE place for you. If you're hurting spiritually, emotionally or mentally, ditto!
I'm not just writing this to shamelessly promote my congregation. I'm a witness to all I've said thus far, and I hope I've done my share in painting the picture.
Take this past Sunday morning, 5 June. It had been a bad week for yours truly. I'm working on three leads to potential job placements; Friday afternoon one lead evaporated on me. Friday morning The Academy, the group transitional home (mostly for vets) where I'd lived since beginning of 2011, and I parted ways. I'd seen it coming, since for one thing I'd felt like I'd crash-landed on another planet since arriving at The Academy -- I hold almost NOTHING significant or important in common with the other residents and also have issues with a few of the procedures or customs at the place.
Therefore, I wasn't really upset at being booted out the door. Praise to God and thanks to my mother, I had a couple hundred dollars freshly deposited in my bank account. So for this weekend ouing I'm staying in a cheap motel on a bus line (tomorrow I'll be seeking new quarters in earnest).
Oh, that's the other "bad" thing that occurred this week: the car I'd been given by a dear Sister at Eastwood had to be returned to her for the summer. It's a long, complicated story, so I won't go into details; I'll just say that I knew the reliquishing was imminent, and it occurred Friday.
So-o-o-o. . . there wasn't any doubt I'd be attending Sunday School and Worship even more eagerly than usual today. As always, in the class we had great discussion (concerning the lectionary Scripture passages for today). Then, for the choir's Anthem, we sang "Clap Your Hands", lyrics of which are based closely on the opening verses from Psalm 47. Professional musician Roy Agee played his trombone as accompaniment (along with Marie at piano), and we choir singers DID clap our hands rhythmically for much of the piece. Later Roy accompanied on guitar while his wife Kristie and Liz Johnson sang "Shackles and Chains" -- NOT the Patty Loveless hit in Country Music, but a more spiritual set of lyrics with an infectious beat ( a few of us were clapping or tapping along on this one too). The song was written about four years ago by Johnson and Agee, but this was the world premier! And it served as such a timely salve for my wounded spirit and mind!
However, before they sang, Pastor Jay gave a fantastic sermon. Fantastic! I hollered "Amen!" more than once!
Titled "Focused Witnesses" and based primarily on Acts 1:6-14 with allusions to I Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11, the sermon was one of the best I've heard from Jay Hartley -- and he's a pretty good preacher at that! This sermon was among the best in that he commenced with a "perfect" opening (prior to reading the Acts passage he briefly set the scene by describing the Ascension of Jesus, with the disciples staring up in the sky after him -- until two "angels" appeared and told them to "snap out of it and do your mission!" Then there was a "perfect" introductory illustration: the oh-so-recent news item about media preacher Camping's prediction of the world's ending on 21 May -- which didn't occur, did provide fodder for attacks from unbelievers, and did distract some believers from focus on the really important meaning of the Gospel ("Good News") and resultant mission of witnessing to the world about God's love and grace. As Pastor Jay said, Brother Camping needs to pay attention to Acts 1:7 before he goes around setting dates!
And then to develop his main theme, of how crucial it is to stay focused and overcome distractions in order to live the effective Christian life, he used a couple of excellent and illuminating anecdotes. One of which involved Coach Tim Corbin, whose Vanderbilt Commodore baseball student-athletes are having a stellar year (SEC 2011 season tri-champs and over 40 season victories); Pastor Jay spoke of how the Coach emphasizes focus and team-work. (I already was familiar with this, and so I appreciated the segue from the cruciality of focusing for sports into its cruciality for living in general.)
To top the message off, Pastor Jay spoke of "spiritual warfare" -- one of the allusions to the passage from I Peter -- which isn't a focus he cottons to very much. He pointed out that "focus makes all the difference [in life] but distractions are all around us." In the fifth chapter of First Peter, verse 8b describes this challenge as "the devil prowl[ing] around like a roaring lion" and verse 9a urges disciples of the Nazarene to resist and stand firm.
Well, after such uplifting, encouraging and for me personally timely songs and sermon, what better way to climax the worship than with the Lord's Supper? Indeed, I was given a vision while Pastor Jay was giving the call to communion, of the Lord Jesus standing behind the Table, smiling an encouraging and loving smile while extending his nail-scarred hands to invite and embrace us! In such a holy moment, I sensed yet again the divine Spirit telling me to take off my shoes. Which I did before I walked forward to partake of the bread and cup.
Yes! Sunday morning at Eastwood Church (Disciples of Christ) was just what I needed! Thanks be to God for His love, power and grace, and for their reflection in my ECC(DC) brothers and sisters!