Reflecting on the Lord’s day yesterday at Redemption Hill, I want to give thanks to God for a couple things that I saw happen amongst the body. A couple glimpses that stand out like snapshots in my mind. Things that I wish could have been literally captured somehow, so I will endeavor to capture them with words.
When my family and I first drove up to the Vineyard Church of San Antonio, where Redemption Hill currently meets each Sunday at 1PM, we were greeted by the smiling faces and waving hands of several families and individuals who had arrived early to help set up and prepare the room and all the different elements for worship. Their smiles were genuine. They were happy to be there, happy to serve their Lord by caring for his people through the little details that they would be a part of putting together that morning.
Whether it was cleaning or tidying up something that had previously been left undone, setting up audio and visual equipment, or placing the chairs around the room, laying out the pew bibles, putting together the communion elements, or even cleaning up the bathroom! A thousand little steps and movements, bending, lifting, wiping, scouring, pouring, placing, connecting, sweeping, the list goes on and on. They did it all. They did it all with smiles and joy in their hearts, praying for the people they were serving and the liturgy they were about to participate in. Ministry happening at the chair and pew level, and it was beautiful!
*Snap* One little image tucked away into the photo album of my memories.
(Thank you Lord for a church who loves you and loves your people in such practical ways with great joy and love in serving.)
Another interesting thing happened yesterday when a woman came into the sanctuary, off of the street, in search of financial assistance to help her get back home. She had run out of gas and needed some help so that she could fill up her gas tank. For most churches this kind of occurrence is not uncommon, but for us, meeting at 1PM as we do, it’s pretty rare. Yet as I watched from a distance, several things unfolded to reveal a beautiful expression of God’s love and care through the body of Christ.
We are a small congregation with our own budgetary needs and challenges, but some time ago we began a practice of inviting our people to donate gift cards to various retail outlets such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. We are able to distribute these gift cards to people in need, whether within or outside of the membership of the church, so that they can purchase the things that they need and want with dignity. In this way, as a church, we have been able to be a blessing and help out in ways that if we were dependent on our ordinary giving we would not have been able to. This Sunday we were able to extend this assistance to this special lady who came in off the street.
But that is not all…
Now, normally, in my experience, that would have been the end of the story, and it is not that bad of an ending. She needed material help and, by God’s grace and providential leading ahead of time, we were able to provide for her immediate material need. Like I said, it’s not that bad of an ending.
But Pastor Joel invited her to stay for worship, and she accepted. She stayed. She stayed AFTER she had already received the assistance. That’s almost unheard of! AND she stayed till the end.
But that is not all…
Then I witnessed as one by one, individuals from our body went up and greeted her and engaged her in conversation and made her feel welcome, even going so far as to provide for more of her needs and make room for her. I was so proud of our people as I watched them extend love and care to her.
We don’t know if we will ever see her again but, on this day, not only were her physical needs met but she was provided an opportunity to have her spiritual needs met as well as she was able to sit and witness and participate in the reading, singing, praying, preaching, and eating of the Word of God.
This was made even more poignant for me when we read this during the gospel reading in our liturgy.
*Snap* Another photo for the album.
(Thank you Father for providing for this woman through your people, may you also provide for her every spiritual need and bring her safely to full salvation on that final day.)
These are only two moments from one Lord’s Day. Things that I just happened to see and witness. There are countless other moments that I miss on a weekly basis. The ongoing joke between my wife and I is about how few people I actually get to talk to and engage with on a weekly basis. I wish that I could speak to every person, shake every hand, and hear every story. It’s just not possible.
But our great God does not miss a thing.
He sees every act of service and loving hand extended, but he also sees the things that no one else sees. The good and the bad. He sees every brushed away tear and hears every sigh too. No matter if you think no one sees or cares when you have gone out of your way to help or serve, or when you have been hurting or in need and felt neglected… God has seen, and he does care. He receives your acts of kindness and service that are done for him and his glory and not for the praise of man with great joy and pleasure, and your reward is in heaven, and when you have felt invisible or unloved, he has never stopped seeing you and loving you.
If you need help, cry out to God, even as we saw the psalmist do in the sermon yesterday, implore the Lord for all things needful. Yes, and give yourself then to scripture, and prayer, but then do not neglect to go to those places where he has preemptively provided for your needs practically and spiritually through the body of Christ. Whether through your elders and pastors, the deacons, or the rest of the laity, all of them your brothers and sisters in Christ, go to them and ask for the help you need, even if it is just for some encouragement to not grow weary in doing well.
Often, we have not, because we have asked not.
If you need prayer, care, counsel, or even just some fuel for your tank… Just ask, and see what God will do.
May God the Father, in his love and by his grace, and the help of the Holy Spirit, bring us all through this week with our eyes fixed on Jesus the Son, and gather us all together again, either in his presence in glory or together for worship on the next Lord’s Day!