Words Matter - ENCOUNTER
“And I pray that you, being rooted ” Ephesians 3
If you attend church regularly I hope it’s alright if I ask you a question. When you came to church this morning, what did you hope would happen? This question can make people a little defensive or apprehensive. It stirs a debate in our minds about answering in a way that acknowledges our emotions, which makes us nervous or it may nudge us toward digging in deep to say something that would satisfy a religion teacher or a Pastor. But seriously, you got up early, you got dressed reasonably nice. You might have showered and combed your hair. And you probably worked really hard to get the kids dressed and out the door on time. But WHY did you come? What did you hope would happen? What did you hope to give? What did you hope to receive? When the final benediction was said and the final hymn was sung, how did you hope to leave?
No right or wrong answer, just an honest one. I would encourage you to take a bit of a poll with the people in your family or small group or church and just see what people have to say and how they respond. It can be a fascinating list of reasons why people come and what they are hoping for. Many times people will say they came for communion, to have a physical comfort and encouragement that only Jesus can give in that sacrament. For others it’s to hear a message about God’s word that will be helpful for their life or their week ahead. For some it’s the beautiful music and the chance to sing a favorite song that they will keep singing when the leave. For some it’s not as religious, but may be a desire to see a friend, to get a hug from Pastor, to meet up with family and friends that we don’t see at other times. For some it’s because they were made to go and had no real choice. For some they were looking to find relief from a guilty conscience. And for many others, they aren’t entirely sure why they came or what they were hoping for… they had never really thought of it, because it’s what we always do.
This tends to be the kind of question that gets us nervous, because it plays on reason and emotion and we get uncomfortable in this space sometimes, but it’s a fair one. At the beginning of this series I shared the story of the woman at the well. She had a sin problem, a troubled heart and she was thirsty for pure water, living water. As you recall that story, when would you say she “encountered” Jesus? There are several different ways to answer this, but I would submit that she truly encountered Jesus when he said “I who speak to you am he”. Her reaction is priceless, she leaves the water jar behind and goes and tells everyone that she may have found the promised Messiah who would “explain everything”.
We all encounter God in a myriad of ways. We certainly encounter shame and sorrow, we encounter the result of sin and the wonder of forgiveness. Sometimes it is in the quiet of the night as we meditate on a passage that the Holy Spirit prompts into our minds to pray over and dwell on. It’s the touch in communion and baptism. It’s the song that stirs in us the picture from Zephaniah of the Lord singing over his people. It really is the loving embrace of family, friends and spiritual mentors and Pastors that God uses to physically touch our lives. James himself notes that the healing comes when we confess our sins ONE TO ANOTHER and pray for each other that we might be healed. It’s been said we are the hands and feet of God and that we are blessed to be carriers of the Gospel of Peace.
In our worship, we encounter God’s great love for us. In our lives, we have an opportunity to be carriers of that encounter with the joy and hope of the Gospel to others who are desperate to find healing. So… what did you hope would happen at church? Why did you really come? I hope on some level it was to encounter Jesus in such a way that you and I both leave running into the world with excitement “COME SEE A MAN!”.