Aren’t We All a Little Mary Magdalene?

I was leaving Easter Sunrise Service this morning. The reading from John 20 got me thinking.

Aren't We All a Little Mary Magdalene?

Mary had been profoundly touched by Jesus so she followed after Him, got to know and love Him, and was there at the foot of the cross (19:25). Seeing Him die on that cross must have begun a mind-blowing crisis of faith. This is not what she thought was coming.

Bereft, confused, she continued to seek answers in the fellowship of other disciples and in her religious traditions (20:1, 10).

In the midst of trying (unsuccessfully) to go through the motions of a ritual (anointing the body), she encountered something fully, terrifyingly, utterly supernatural…and she totally didn’t get what was going on. (20:13)

In that place of, “What? Look, can somebody please just help me here?” she came face to face with VASTLY MORE of Jesus than she had ever encountered before. It was so beyond her experience that she didn’t even realize it was His presence in front of her. (20:14)

She responded with an effort to make sense of it all and DO something…anything…to get her footing back. (20:15)

Jesus reminded her of their intimate relationship. He called her by name. In revealing that He knew who she was, she suddenly was able to see who He was.


He reaches into our lives and touches us, blesses us, provides for us, and if we aren’t foolish we respond by lovingly following after Him for more. Then life happens; we are blind-sided by things we cannot foresee or control, and we are left shaking.

Bereft, confused, if we are wise we continue to seek answers. Maybe the fellowship of other believers helps; maybe study and solitude; maybe religious traditions.

But somewhere in the midst of trying (with always less than total success) in our own strength to sort it all out, we encounter a whole big piece of GOD that we have not encountered before. We may not even realize that this is His presence in front of us at first.

We usually respond with an effort to do SOMEthing to put this very overwhelming GOD into a framework we can understand and manage, but He is not interested in fitting into our boxes. So He makes clear to us who He is by revealing to us again (and again, and again) who we are…because only He knows us so intimately.

And we are left with our mouths hanging open in astonishment, our hearts overflowing with awe and gratitude and wonder, and our minds still mighty confused for the most part. We then choose how we will respond.

Mary did it this way:

She responded by calling Him “Teacher” – the name she had used for three years as she depended on Him for instruction in truth. She still didn’t understand, and in calling on her Teacher, she once more humbled herself to the authority of wisdom from heaven.

(I want to respond like Mary.)

Then Jesus told her yet another thing that was beyond her understanding (20:17). And when He left her – still mind-blown and clueless for the most part – she chose to go to her brothers and sisters and testify to what she had seen and heard, even though she couldn’t possibly have explained it to the others.

I am often afraid to respond like Mary.

I would rather have my mind wrapped around a thing before I try to share it with others. But if I trust Him to be Teacher, can’t I trust Him to reveal wisdom from heaven to all of us in His time, in His way, to His glory and for our good?

What if my testimony about what I’ve seen and heard in all of its incomplete, clueless, “no-I-can’t-exactly-explain-what-it-all-means-but…” humanness is just what might help someone else keep seeking?

I want to respond like Mary.


Finding Fingerprints in Many Places

I have fallen behind in blogging as I visit churches. Weeks 12 – 18 are getting a “catch-up” treatment here. This summary post touches on lovely moments noticing God’s fingerprints in my local community at churches including:

  • a small Nazarene fellowship
  • a crowded Episcopal service
  • an independent “Bible Church” of about 200
  • a large evangelical Presbyterian congregation
  • a medium-sized United Methodist gathering
  • a small Assemblies of God service
  • an American Baptist service of around 150 folks

Finding Fingerprints Week 12

Finding God’s fingerprints:
(in no particular order)

– an “adopt a student” ministry that takes the names of college students who are living away from family, assembles care packages for them a couple of times each semester, and has people designated to pray for and encourage these young adults while they live far from home while pursuing their education.

– an unapologetic budget report included in the bulletin showing a significant deficit in moneys available to support the ministries of the church. The transparent, black-and-white numbers being shared on paper weekly rather than vague pleas for extra giving showed me humility and a dependence on God to provide. It’s interesting to note that NO mention of this deficit was made during the worship service; it was a matter of fact to be reported (like any other announcement in the bulletin). No one’s arm was twisted. The need was simply acknowledged in print.

– a tone of service that felt comfortable and intimate even for a first-time visitor. I was reminded of small group Bible studies from the church in which I was raised. Folks spoke out from their pews testifying to answered prayer so we could all thank God with them.

– a gathering of believers at the front of the sanctuary, sitting and standing together around the table before the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Intimate and friendly, but not casual or disrespectful, the celebration of the bread and the cup was something of a family dinner.

– a pastor who shared with the congregation a need for prayer as a family from the church faced the imminent death of a loved one. Before the sermon he led us in prayer. He prayed with a simple, beautiful sincerity that made it easy to agree with his spoken trust in the God of all comfort who would allow us to intercede for these brothers and sisters. His prayer did not beg God’s mercy, but instead was thankful for a merciful God to whom we are invited to pray.

– a follow-up conversation with someone I never even met at the service I attended, encouraging me in my Finding Fingerprints adventure and asking me to be on the lookout for other local congregations with a heart to reach the Muslim sector of our community for loving and respectful times of discourse. This is not an “inter-faith” effort; the person who emailed me has a longing to see Muslims encouraged to faith in Christ for salvation. But after years of living in a predominantly Muslim country, a respect for the Muslim’s worldview and a gentle understanding of the need for personal relationship with individuals BEFORE trying to share about spiritual things was expressed.

– a soul-stirring special music offering by a soloist that sounded nothing like a performance and entirely like an act of worship.

– a concrete, articulate explanation of the significance of celebrating the body and blood of Jesus Christ, including a step-by-step invitation to the congregation to first acclaim faith in a holy God who brings together justice and mercy in His own blood shed for the remission of sin, then a time for confession of sin in prayer and celebration of our assurance of pardon in Christ, and then a joyful participation in communion with the bread and the cup.

– a chance to re-affirm our baptism as we remembered the baptism of the Lord Jesus in the Jordan, the outpouring of the Spirit of God at that time, and the chance His word gives us to be a part of that in our own act of obedience in baptism. This experience was really moving, and I’ve continued to chew on all that my baptism means since that service.

– a musically awkward piece that was shared with such sincere enthusiasm of spirit that I was convicted to get over my big, bad musical self and make a joyful noise with all my heart.

– a friendly laid-back welcome-center greeter who seemed to enjoy the chance to make a first-time visitor feel truly welcome but not intruded-upon.

– a church that decided to just have the contemporary and traditional songs “take turns” in the service rather than trying to force musical puzzle pieces to fit together where they do not…or to make any pseudo-holy statement about “the right way” to include music in corporate worship.

That brings the adventure up to date….hooray for Naza-Evangepiscopal-Assembly-of-Baptists-and-Bible-Methodists!

And during this time I’ve begun reading about early church history, the origins of the Roman Catholic Church, and the historical pieces of the Protestant Reformation. Let’s see what I can find in all of the tangled roots in our family tree!


5 Years of Perspective

Today is the 5th anniversary of my big sister Heather’s homegoing. When we were kids, she irritated the tar out of me on a regular basis, taught me about beauty products (note: NEVER use Vaseline for a hot-oil treatment for your hair), was bossy, sang with me loudly in public places (to upset our sister Allison), knew EVERYthing (or so she thought), made me laugh, hurt my feelings, and once wrote a spoof-musical with me in the wee hours of the morning.

When we were grown up, we went for long stretches with hardly any communication, brainstormed gift ideas and event-planned for family celebrations, had sometimes-awkward get-togethers (because aren’t we ALL a little awkward, really?), spent hours in deep conversation, and once got so silly in a fancy steakhouse that we couldn’t stop laughing and our husbands were embarrassed to be seated with us.

When she got sick with pancreatic cancer, we suddenly talked every week even though we lived 1,000 miles apart. We sat and held hands in doctor’s waiting rooms even though when we were little she would shriek if I dared to touch her in public. We made tacky, inappropriate jokes during chemo treatments because it’s better to laugh than cry sometimes. And we reminded each other that God is God, He is good, and He loves us.

Now that she is gone, I realized that she helped me learn some stuff:

* People are often annoying, but they are important.
* Relationships are hard work, but they are of immeasurable value.
* You don’t always like the people you still choose to love, and that’s okay.
* People can be wrong and it not really matter that much.
* Sometimes an inappropriate joke is actually a statement of faith and hope.
* Family is messy and complicated, but it should not be taken for granted.
* Love — no matter exactly what shape it takes at a given time — is always worth it.
* God is God, He is good, and He loves us.

(See you, Heath….and thanks for the opal ring. I smile every time I wear it.)

Finding God’s Fingerprints As We Are Able

Week Eleven of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #11, Nov.16, 2014

“As We Are Able”

a Lutheran congregation of about 150 people at their second service

Finding God's Fingerprints Week 11

Message: The Parable of the Talents – Visiting Minister


We received a warm welcome as we entered the beautiful sanctuary. As we waited for the service to begin, we enjoyed the organ prelude. There is something truly majestic about the sound of a pipe organ played by someone who knows how to do it right!

The Lutheran liturgy is similar in many ways to the Roman Catholic mass, but unlike last week when I was in need of a missalette, this time we had been handed a bulletin with the liturgy laid out for us; it is so much easier to participate that way. Oddly, I would have thought that it would also make me feel less “genuine” in my worship, but it doesn’t seem to be having that effect.

The sung Psalm was unfamiliar to me and took a little getting used to. It was printed in the bulletin and I read music, so I figured this would be a piece of cake, but instead it was tricky to get my brain to know when to move to which note and when to stay put and chant on an individual pitch. I got the hang of it about half-way through, but in all honesty I wasn’t thinking much about the words of the Psalm until I figured out how to sing along. The next time I’m in a Lutheran liturgical service, I’ll probably keep my focus a lot better and know how to participate without so much concentration on the music.

Fred and I loved it that the pastor and assisting minister and acolytes bring the Bible down into the aisle to read the Gospel. Jesus came down to dwell among us, so His word is physically carried down among the people as the gospel is read. Really beautiful picture!
The visiting pastor’s message was a different take than I had heard before on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. He framed it against the pressures of the last days in which we live, the godless world that sucks us dry, and the need to remember that ALL that we have was given to us by God in the first place. All came from the Master, all work was done in response to His will, and we only find the stamina to continue in kingdom work when we stay thankfully aware of the Source of all good.

In prayer before Communion, the pastor said something that really “made” the service for me, that “Ah!” moment that I knew I would carry with me specially through the coming week. He said, “We acknowledge that we worship You not as we ought, but as we are able.” The picture of Jesus’ grace making up the difference between my “able” and my “ought” was profound.

Fred found taking communion to be very meaningful this week. The physical process is very similar to the Roman Catholic mass with which he was raised, but here it was clear from the bulletin that we were welcome at the table as baptized Christians – whether we were Lutheran or not – and it was a blessing to take the bread and wine with thanksgiving.

Personal Notes:

I love the heart for service in the community at this church. Everywhere I looked were evidences of concern for the poor and hungry, those serving in the military and their families, and the elderly. Good stuff! Gospel in action, in the name of Jesus.

Finding God’s Fingerprints in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Week Ten of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #10, Nov. 9, 2014

a large Roman Catholic Church
Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 / 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17/Jn 2:13-22

Finding God's Fingerprints Week 10


Eight years ago, a local Catholic school allowed my homeschooled son to play football on their team. It was a great experience for him, and I was always grateful that they included him as they did. I spent many hours at the football field, but I’d never been inside the church. When I realized I was 10 weeks into my Finding Fingerprints adventure and hadn’t yet worshipped with Catholic believers, I decided that was the parish to visit.

I failed to pick up a missalette on my way into the sanctuary, and because I don’t attend Mass very often, I found it harder to participate without it. For those of you who haven’t attended a Catholic Mass and don’t know what I’m talking about, the service has a many congregational responses throughout it, and the missalette is a little book that allows you to “follow along” so that you can read the responses at the right times in the service.

I loved the procession that begins the service as the congregation sings a hymn. The reverence shown for the cross of Jesus and the written Word of God (lifted high over the head as they enter) is beautiful. It makes me ask myself, “Do I begin my times of worship by respectfully lifting Jesus’ sacrifice, example and word high and bowing down before Him? Do I begin my days this way? My work? My conversation?”

This particular Mass was to be a celebration of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in the early 300’s. Huh? This was all new to me, and as the priest shared the story, the reason for our continued celebration of it these many centuries later, I learned a lot. Church history reminded us of the precious gift of worship without persecution, and challenged us to be living out our faith, boldly identifying as followers of Jesus, because God has allowed us the opportunity to live under a government that does not forbid it. We were also challenged to pray for the persecuted church of Jesus Christ in other countries around the world.
The homily (that’s “sermon,” for Protestants!) encouraged believers to care for themselves and their fellowmen in a way that is respectful of the Holy Spirit of God who dwells in us as His temple. The priest reminded us that we easily remember to treat with respect a facility like the sanctuary in which we were sitting, but slow to respect the true temple of God – US, according to His word.

The pace of Mass is particularly of note. I saw God’s fingerprints so clearly in it. Mass is not rushed. The entry procession is slow and dignified. The priest takes time for silence between the various parts of the Mass, allowing reflection on what has come before, and preparation for what is coming next. I never felt that I was being entertained and the folks on the altar were afraid they might lose the “audience” if they waited too long. Instead, the pauses reminded me without words that I was there to worship God; what happened on the altar was designed to aid ME in the activity for which I was present.

Preparation for Communion includes my favorite moment in the Mass. The priest presents the bread and the cup and the congregation says together, “Lord, I am not worthy…” I will admit that this is where I get a little befuddled, because the wording of the response was changed in 2011 and I still identify most strongly with the original wording from the Centurion’s response to Jesus in Matthew 8:8 –

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

The new response is, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

But either way you say it, for me the ritual is powerful. To acknowledge on a regular basis that I am unworthy to receive the Holy Spirit of God in myself, and to acknowledge that because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus I have been made holy by Him so that we CAN dwell together…ahh! So rich; so beautiful!

Personal Notes:

I was raised in the Protestant tradition. When I was 18 years old, I became interested in the Catholic mass through a friend I’d made at work who was a devoted Catholic. She talked with such joy about her church and the celebration of Mass that I wanted to learn more. She spent a precious afternoon explaining things and answering questions, and then took me to daily Mass for the first time. It’s still such a special memory.

A couple of years later, I found myself needing to find a church body with which to worship corporately for just a couple of months before making a move back to my home state. Rather than “church-shopping,” I began attending Mass at the local Roman Catholic parish with another Catholic friend from the office where I now worked.

There was something beautiful to me in the reverence of the Mass. I had differences of doctrine with the Catholic church on some points that meant I didn’t want to pursue joining the church, but I loved worshiping there.

When I married Fred, I married a man who was raised Catholic, but didn’t find a real, personal saving relationship with God in Jesus Christ until he was in his late 40’s, and that was through friendships with Protestant believers. So he chose to stop identifying as a Catholic after that time. His family is still devoted to the Roman Catholic tradition and finds his choice very odd.

Fred doesn’t understand why I love celebrating Mass the way I do. For him, it feels like mindless ritual; for me, it feels like meaning-filled ritual. We have the most interesting conversations in the car on our way home after the various family events that include our attending Mass together!

Finding God’s Fingerprints with Thankfulness

Week Nine of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #9, Nov.2, 2014

an Independent Baptist Church
about 150 people in attendance
Message: Give Thanks in All Things

Finding God's Fingerprints with Thankfulness Week 9


This independent Baptist church is very close to our house. Fred had never been to a Baptist church before, but I spent several years worshiping in one as a child. The hymns had a gentle “Gaither” sound to them, and the feel of the service was conservative without being stuffy. I was glad we’d thought to dress a bit more formally than we would for some services; it was a suits and dresses congregation for the most part. It’s kind of nice to purposely put on your Sunday best to go to church!

The pastor greeted us when we arrived and made a dedicated point to be sure we knew we could follow up with him if we needed anything or had any questions about the church. His message was really good; well-planned and easy to understand, but rich with meaning. He admonished us to put the time and effort that often go into complaining or criticizing into, instead, thankfully counting our blessings. Simple? Perhaps in theory…but Fred and I had a good talk about how to put it into practice and hold each other accountable on the drive home!

One thing I’d never seen before: once a month they take a few extra minutes after the sermon to share what is being taught in children’s church for those 4 Sundays of the month so that everyone can be aware of what the kids are learning, and can be a part of talking about it with them. I thought that was a lovely way to allow the kids’ ministry to be in a different place in the building and age-targeted for them, but still encourage unity across generations in the church.

Personal Notes:

This is getting easier and easier each week. I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of how to be a visitor. I am not feeling weird about introducing myself to people. My smile is genuine. I am looking forward to seeing what fingerprints I can find at each church I visit. This adventure is starting to really be fun!

Weeks Seven and Eight: Finding God’s Fingerprints on the Interstate

Weeks Seven and Eight of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sundays #7 and #8, Oct. 19 and 26, 2014

On the road to Florida with my husband, Fred

Messages from  Andy Stanley –

Parts 1-5 of “Starting Point”

and a worship music mix of some of our favorites

Week Seven Finding God's Fingerprints on the Interstate


Fred and I were taking a road trip to Ft. Myers, FL, and his work schedule made it necessary for us to cover many hundreds of miles on each of the 2 Sundays we were away. So we took it literally that if two are gathered in Jesus’ name, we got us a worship service, and we had church together in the car both Sundays.

Andy  Stanley’s podcasts provided the teaching, and excellent series (we listened to 5 messages) called Starting Point. He has been explaining how the faith of our childhood often gets battered as we enter adulthood, and instead of just feeling guilty for not believing like we did when we were little, we need to create a new starting point with God as adults. The messages are so very good, and so timely in helping me understand more and more of the struggles my kids have all had carrying their childhood faith into adulthood.

Fred and I had rich conversation after the messages, and then prayed together for all sorts of needs.

He had me make a mix of 35 worship songs on his iPod before we left home, and we sang along and listened and prayed and talked to the music. Particularly meaningful to both of us: Casting Crowns’ “The Voice of Truth.

Personal Notes:

I love traveling with my husband. I love having the time in the car to talk. And I love having church in the car with him. It doesn’t take the place of gathering with other believers in larger groups, but it’s precious. It truly “felt like church” both Sundays!

Week Six: Finding God’s Fingerprints in a Converted Warehouse

Week Six of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #6, Oct. 12, 2014

A Smallish Non-Denominational Community Church with about 100 in attendance

Message: Honor Your Father and Mother (guest speaker)

Finding Fingerprints Week 6


The vibe this week was casual. This small, contemporary fellowship was similar to many in which I’ve worshiped over the years. It was easy to feel at home, and a few friendly folks smiled and said hello.

The worship band played and sang well, and the pastor greeted the congregation with a reminder of the importance of knowing The Ten Commandments, the foundation upon which the Old Covenant rested, and which was so beautifully fulfilled by Jesus in the New Covenant. A series on The Ten Commandments was continuing this Sunday, and a guest speaker shared. The pastor had preached on the Sabbath the week before, then had taken a week of rest for himself and his family. I thought that was pretty cool. It is a beautiful thing when people see their shepherds take care of themselves and their need for rest.

We celebrated the Lord’s Supper at the end of the message, and everyone went to the table and took the bread and juice as they felt ready to. It was nice to be able to participate as a body of believers but also feel very much focused on my own personal prayer time as I remembered the sacrifice of Christ for my sin.

An unusual, neat side note was an announcement that was made for a financial planning event to be held in the near future. One of the church members is a financial planner and was offering a free information session to help people figure out what was strong and what needed work in their personal finances.

Personal Notes:
The church meets in a newly renovated space that used to be an electronics repair shop and warehouse. I can remember taking some electronic device or other there when I was a kid for repair. It was somehow really cool to see that space converted into a worship space.

I got a lovely follow-up email from the pastor after my visit here. I liked getting to share with him about my Finding Fingerprints adventure; I’ve begun keeping a list of all the churches I visit on the wall of my office so that I can pray for all these congregations.

(Further Note: This pastor has continued to reach out by email over the intervening weeks, and has been praying for ME and my adventure, even as I’ve been praying for his church. Isn’t that cool? Building unity…building unity…building unity…)

Week Five: Finding God’s Fingerprints in a Lonely Place

Week Five of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #5, Oct. 5, 2014

A Medium-Sized Non-Denominational Community Church with about 200 in attendance

Message: John 3 “You Must Be Born Again”

Finding Go'd's Fingerprints in a Lonely Place

This one is hard to write about.

I decided I’d chosen liturgical services for the last couple of churches so I’d go with a non-denominational contemporary service this Sunday. I’m leaving off the name of the church because the whole point of this adventure is to celebrate God’s beautiful fingerprints everywhere I find them, and never to add to the disunity already running rampant in the family of God.

I checked out this church on their website and read a lot of warm, fellowship-oriented language. A café awaited me, and since I was a first-time visitor I should be sure to take a mug home with me. I arrived 7 minutes before service time. I entered the building and walked through the café to enter the sanctuary. There were probably about 200 people milling about, drinking coffee and fellowshipping. I walked slowly and made eye contact. I smiled. I was clean and had brushed my teeth. I was dressed in a very fit-in-with-the-crowd outfit. I was alone (Fred was sleeping after a night shift).

I was never once greeted.

It was like I was invisible. I thought, “I need to make sure I look open, friendly, and also a little lost. Those are the marks of a visitor.” Slowly I made my way all the way across the back of the wide sanctuary, pausing to look at the bulletin I’d picked up, looking around to read the signs on the walls, catching the occasional eye of someone and smiling tentatively. I was completely ignored.

I took a seat on the aisle on the far side of the sanctuary. The service began, and the lights went down. Stage lights lit the worship band. The sound system worked well. The words flashed on the screen. All the elements of “the production” were solid, but honestly the musicianship was pretty poor. It seemed as if they were trying so hard to put in every possible guitar riff, every instrumental bridge that they’d heard on the professional recording of the song, that their focus was just stretched thin and they were out of their depth. They looked at one another frequently trying to get their timing together. It was mighty distracting, and I was truly trying to worship.

I knew the songs. It wasn’t hard to sing along…but I was so distracted by the production that it WAS hard to sing along.

A missions report, a message that was casual, conversational, and completely confusing (even though it was intended for those in need of salvation and should have been clear to anyone)…I began to pray for SOME evidence of God’s fingerprints.

All I could see was a club; it was a club of which I was not a part. The café and casual atmosphere gave them the illusion of warmth and welcome. The conversational tone of the folks on the platform gave the false appearance of relationship with the regular attenders and a desire for relationship with the newbies. So disheartening.
I did find one lovely fingerprint, though, and it must be spotlighted.

Monthly this church offers a dinner for foster parents in the community. They cook and serve, and babysit the kids in another room while the foster parents have time to talk to one another and share encouragement. They are caring for orphans that way, right in our community.

Isn’t that beautiful?

Personal Notes:
I was so sad that I looked that hard and found so little of God’s presence. I don’t doubt that there are people in that church who love Jesus and want to live for Him. But something was wrong there; somewhere the priority got moved from substance to surface. I am praying that they will remember what it really means to love God and love others in ways that will show His fingerprints to all.

Week Four: Finding God’s Fingerprints in Corporate Prayer

Week Four of my Finding Fingerprints adventure. I’m visiting a different church every week to see all the cool things that God is up to in the various gatherings of believers in Jesus in my community. John 17, baby — Let’s find that unity that Jesus wanted for us!

Sunday #4, Sept. 28, 2014

A large United Methodist Church at a lightly-attended Liturgical Service (about 40 people for their final of 3 Sunday services)
Message: I Cor. 13:1-8a “Radiating God’s Love”

Finding God's Fingerprints in Corporate Prayer


The building is huge and like a maze, and we parked in the rear and came in through the back door, so we were quickly lost. The people were very friendly, and in no time a lady offered to be our guide. They have a contemporary service meeting in one hall in the building at the same time that their third liturgical service meets upstairs in the sanctuary. An usher greeted us with coffee mugs and cookies and another warm welcome; nice people.

Formal, beautiful sanctuary, but the congregation is small at the 11:00 Liturgical service (maybe 40) so the pastor came down into the center aisle and kept the service conversational rather than staying in the pulpit. I loved the music; I like how Methodist hymnals have songs with tunes I know (classical pieces, old folk songs, etc.) with lyrics to the glory of God.

The prayer time was most remarkable to me. Before the morning prayer time, the pastor shared items from the news in the last few weeks, reminding us of our responsibility to pray for the community, the country and the world. We lifted up together by name victims of violent crime in recent news, the countries of the Middle East where the crisis seems hopeless, and we together declared God’s sovereignty over all of those situations.

The Bible message was short and sweet, teaching from a well-known passage on love, but still offering something real to chew on. Fred and I both found personal challenge in his image of “radiating” God’s love; that when we are filled with and guided by God’s love, it not only shines to light darkness around us, but it gives off warmth to anyone who gets close to us. He talked about a love that radiates warmth in spite of irritation, kind words in spite of frustration. It was timely for both of us; we’d had a frustrating and irritating evening the night before.

Personal Notes:

Getting out the door was, of course, a challenge. Jonah’s graduation party was at our house at 4:00, and I was up early cooking like mad. I never made it into the shower, but I got cleaned up enough to be presentable and we rushed off. It was well worth the effort. We visited with the senior pastor (he came right to us at the close of service) and found him to be warm and genuine and easy to talk to.

Oh, and the organ Toccata Giocosa (Martin) that was played for the postlude literally made me cry. The power of God, reflected in music!