A series of hands outstretched in greeting, backed by smiling faces, welcomed us when my wife and I entered the sanctuary. I thrilled at hearing the magnificent organ skilfully played in prelude and wished, as I quite often do, that I’d learned to play organ “properly,” too. Only weeks before this I’d attended a memorial service there, and appreciated the instrument’s gentle throb filling the lofty place.
That sacred space is an auditorium I’ve always liked, since my first visit three decades ago. Gorgeous stained glass windows depicting Christ and His ministry and Christian symbols enrich the visual and spacial experience, and more importantly, inspire spiritual reflection.
Twenty-four years before this recent visit I’d spoken at a Lenten service in St. Paul’s United Church. It was good to be back and I felt truly privileged to be guest speaker. Once seated, craning my neck, yet trying hard to not make it obvious, I gazed up for several seconds at the inner and outer rings of lights encircling the large dome.
I mused. Years ago I counted those lights . . . Were there eighty-plus? But there’s also a smaller ring within the dome. [Inner ring of lights, above left] Now, were they included in my count? I wondered. My childlike curiosity would have to wait. The service is getting under way, and I’m a guest here and have to have my wits about me and follow the service order and focus on the worship, so as to not miss my cues.
Sparing you step-by-step details, the focus of the service was about contributing and serving others, using our gifts and playing our part. May and I presented a brief children’s slot, using my accordion and a dollar store harmonica as objects for the lesson.
[Top right facing front; 2nd from top right facing rear.]
We wrapped that up with a duet. Later I was called on to sing a solo. The time came for the sermon and it was my delight to share the life and love and joy of the Lord from the Scriptures (from Romans 12, and Colossians 3) on this great topic.
There are various kinds of service, of course, and we are endowed with varying abilities and skills. The Holy Spirit motivates us in our expression and exercise of them for the benefit of other people.
A point that I was making, based on the Scripture, is that as Christ-followers we are called to offer and provide service from a somewhat different standpoint than that of non-believers or non-followers of Jesus. Even the smallest deed constitutes a sacramental, Eucharistic service, when it arises from a heart of thanksgiving to God.
My Beloved concluded our part by singing, to my piano accompaniment, a song of thanksgiving to God.
Next Sunday we should be back in a country Baptist church, supporting the service musically, lending our humble gifts. Neither St. Paul’s nor that rural church is the fellowship with which I’m ordained, yet they welcome us into their church families and into their fellowships as members of the family of God.
During this season of retirement from full pastoral responsibilities, we are blessed to have adequate health and strength to be on hand for one of our own families with children, and to serve the wider Christian and general communities.
“The ol’ grey mare of the body ain’t what it used t’ be.” However, our sharing the life, love and joy of our Lord in nursing homes, retirement centres and churches of various denominational affiliations is, by God’s grace, sacramental service. ~~+~~
Thought for Today
For those who love and serve God supremely and with a grateful heart love and serve people effectively, the line between secular and sacred fades. ~~+~~
From Higher Up
The Lord Jesus said (as “The King” in Matthew 25:40 NIV): “. . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
The apostle Paul wrote (in Romans 12:1 NIV): “. . . I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
And he encouraged (in Colossians 3:17 NIV): “. . . whatever you do , whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
- Original edition of the above article was published in P-Pep! column in The Standard Guide Advocate, Nov. 26 2015.
- Sanctuary photos of of St. Paul’s United Church, Tillsonburg, Ontario, by Peter Black.
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: Available from the author for $15.00 (list price $19.50) + $5.50 shipping to an address in Canada. (US and overseas, whatever is the mailing cost.) See Contact Form below.
Positive reader feedback continues to come for the book “Raise Your Gaze . . . Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart.” Some have purchased second and third copies – and even a fourth – to give to family members and friends.
Ebook version available. Click: Raise Your Gaze … EbookMindful Musings of a Grateful Heart is a collection of 52 articles from Black’s P-Pep! column, sprinkled with Words to Bless. Inspirational; some biographical. 190 pp. ISBN: 978-0-9920074-2-3 Also Available from Angel Hope Publishing: Angelhopepublishing@glynisbelec.com ; www.glynisbelec.com Amazon.com ; Amazon.ca Ebook version now available.
Reader reflections of “Raise Your Gaze . . . Mindful Musings . . .” indicate how much they’ve enjoyed its variety as well as the format and structure. They like its warmth, human interest stories and encouraging inspiration.
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children’s / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing. 39 stories, 232 pp, b/w illustrations. Finalist – Word Alive Press. ISBN: 1897373-21-X. List price $15.99. Available through bookstores, the author and at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca
The book continues to find a place in various settings with a readership ranging from kids to senior adults. His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Standard Guide Advocate (of Southwestern Ontario). His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario. ~~+~~