Twenty-four hours ago Angi and I finished our second and last day at the Pepperdine Lectureship, sitting in the courtyard of the little 1960s motel on the beach that she loves and has wanted to share with me, and we listened to the waves crash a few yards from our feet and reflected on the blessings of the previous forty-eight hours:
Safe arrival. Beautiful weather. Our kids’ safety at home while thunderstorms and tornados passed to the north and the south of them. Two wonderful surrogate houseparents for them, freeing us to travel alone together for the first time in a decade.
Listening to Randy Harris before about 5,000 assembled Christians in the fieldhouse, admitting that he could not preach his assigned topic from the Sermon on the Mount about loving one’s enemies; he was still learning it from his students at ACU.
Hearing Rick Atchley, the embattled minister of North Richland Hills Church, describing his need to change his message to an audience of 400 in Africa because, odds were, more than a quarter of them would be dead from AIDS within a few years, and all of them were hungry to the point of starvation. The passion in his voice when he quietly said, “I’m done with arguing about the things that rich Americans can or can’t do for one hour a week on Sunday. If you folks want to go home and do that, that’s fine; you go ahead. But I’m through with it.”
Sitting on the stage a few feet behind Mike Cope, our minister during our three-year sojourn in Abilene, as he declared the soteriology of Paul to Galatia: that Jesus was enough; that Jesus plus anything else – circumcision, law, acts of righteousness, anything – was powerless to save.
Accepting the solo singing of “Redeemer” by Sheryl Thomas for the first time in person as a priceless blessing with our shameless, grateful tears – while we were still on the platform behind the ZOE Group and Mike; right in front of everyone else in that auditorium of 700-800 souls. Longing to share that blessing with our church family in a gathered worship setting even as a recording – yet knowing that some, like the spiritual hatchlings of Jerusalem that Jesus would have gathered under His wings – some simply would not.
So we do not.
After a silence there by the sea, I confessed to Angi: “It’s taken me a long time to realize that I grew up in a church that really was liberal; it wasn’t just called that by the other churches who wrote us up in their bulletins. It was truly liberal; liberal in love. I grew up hearing sermons about Jesus and about grace and how our own righteous acts are powerless to save us but are powerful to lead others to salvation; and when I hear messages and share in songs that are all about Jesus and all about His grace … I’m home.” And I found myself in quiet tears again.
And the waves went on crashing on the sand.