"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Glory Hallelujah! He's Alive!

Sometimes life just plain surprises me. I had one of those moments Sunday morning, Easter Sunday morning, which should have been a clue in itself that God is into surprises. I had the added favor of attending worship with my oldest son and his wife -- and what a blessing it was. When I got to the church, I noticed immediately before even entering the portals of the sanctuary that it was still dark. Not only were the lights off but everything remained dressed in black from the previous Good Friday service. Yes, I knew I would not be disappointed this morning. Charles had saved me a seat on the 3rd row -- center aisle, no doubt. Whether he did that because those were the only seats available or because he knows his mom loves being in the center of the worship activity, I don't know. But I was thrilled.

After the chiming of the 11th hour, soft piano music began. And then it happened. While it was still dark, the lit Paschal candle lifted high above the bearer's head was carried in from the back of the sanctuary. After it was placed in its stand, one by one, the paraments were transported and put in place -- along with a pulpit Bible, the offering plates, and Easter lilies. As the pastor walked down the aisle, passing on my left, something registered with me as "different" or not completely right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Not until he began removing his suit coat anyway. Ah, yes, that was it. He wasn't wearing a robe. But a woman approached him with his vestment and assisted him in putting it on. He then dropped to one knee and bowed his head as she placed the ornate stole around his collar. The pastor arose, removed his shoes, and then received from the last attendant, his personal Bible -- the Word of God. The symbolism almost sent me over the top! But that wasn't the highlight for me.

The service progressed with shouts of "He is risen! He is risen indeed!!!" throughout the hour. Children were confirmed as almost every parishioner stood around with their hands laid upon them as the pastor prayed and anointed the young with oil. Hymns were sung, affirmations pronounced, praises and concerns lifted and prayers offered. It was during the pastoral prayer that I felt the need to look up. When I did, I almost came undone. There at the altar kneeled a shoeless shepherd interceding for his beloved sheep. Oh, my goodness. My heart nearly exploded at this point as I saw being played out before my eyes what we were celebrating: Jesus interceding for humanity. A Shepherd for His sheep.

The sermon was all I expected and more as the pastor not only captivated his listeners but was himself engaged in the story of the resurrection. Someone had asked him earlier how he could do 4 sermons in one morning. His response: "Because they won't let me do 15!" But even as powerful as the sermon was and as strong as the given imperative mandate, that was still not the highlight for me.

As the offering was being received, the small choir of 11 members stood to sing. Almost immediately, the sound began lifting the rafters as the exuberant voices sang, "Glory Hallelujah! He's Alive!" Not only was the news coming from their mouths, it was shining through each face. But what did it for me was the solo by one of the elderly ladies in the group. Her voice rang above the others as she sang counterpoint to the rest of the choir. "Glory hallelujah! He's alive!!!" Was her voice what it was 30 or 40 years ago? I highly doubt it. In fact, probably much of what she had is gone. But over and over she sang it, and with each repetition, I found myself whispering louder and louder, "Praise You, Lord. Praise You, Lord." For crying out loud, less than 36 hours before I had spent worshiping with the likes of Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, but none of it compared to this moment on Easter Sunday.

Yes, Jesus died and bore the sin of the world. Hallelujah. But He didn't stop there. He sanctioned life by rising again. And that's what blew me away this particular morning. You see, so often the elderly are cast aside as not important, as if they have nothing to offer. We see this so much in our culture. And sadly we're seeing it more and more in our churches as well. But this peculiar morning, I witnessed the validation of a life of one who obviously loves Jesus and was willing to shout it to the rooftops in a voice that spoke more than just her age. It spoke her heart. "Glory hallelujah! He's alive!"

Just an ordinary moment...


Millie said...

Thank you for sharing, Nancy. Our Easter was special too this year or maybe I just appreciate it more as I grow in my faith.

Dee said...

O Nancy, what a beautiful recounting of your worship experience Sunday morning. I love when God moves on us in such a powerful way. Don't you just love when you feel His Presence? Sometimes that is when all I can do is cry. One verse that means so much to me is Luke 2:19 that says that Mary kept all those things and pondered them in her heart. I guess that I identify with that because sometimes things touch me so deeply that I can't adequately express what I think or feel. Your posts are a blessing to me. I am so grateful that the Lord has given us this means for us to know our sweet sisters across the country.

Clay said...

I really enjoyed this post. It lets me know there is "another world" from the one I find myself in at this time in my life. My Easter began with reading a post on a blog titled "at His feet", encouraging a quiet time. I went immediately to His feet. Then recieved a call that one of our babies had gone to heaven. Being at his feet earlier made it all bearable. Pam in Henan http://www.swallowsnestzz.org

Joey said...

I feel as if I were sitting there with you.

Thanks be to God!

ocean mommy said...

OH mercy! That is so beautiful. Thanks so much for your comment on my blog last night! Yes, I will be at Woodstock next weekend and would love to meet you.