Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)
TITLE: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
By Diane Johnson
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I don’t mean any disrespect; it’s just truthfully how I felt (but stick with me on this ok?). Familiar to me was only my two sisters who steered me to one of the wooden pews housed in a fairly large sanctuary.
I was surprised how many people were laughing and hugging one another. Then the service began and all of a sudden the enormous pipe organ bellowed out a majestic melody that reverberated with authority, overfilling every crevice of the sanctuary. I was intrigued and to my astonishment, realized that the music reverberated straight in to my innards (which I now know as my soul). The organ’s powerful sound demanded acknowledgement and respect and drew out within me an awe to a Presence I was not yet introduced to.
The choir and the congregation began boisterously singing songs in a strange language (yea, ye, thee, thou, cherubim and seraphim, etc.) which I eventually learned were hymns compiled in a hymnal. And I soon realized not to get too “comfortable” sitting because we did a lot of standing, then sitting, then standing, then sitting…(which I still haven’t figured out who decided when to sit and when to stand!).
I heard many prayers that stirred my heart even though I was not personally familiar with prayer. My heart was trespassed by an unfamiliar feeling that I realized later was God's peace.
The pastor then stood with authority at the pulpit and gave a message of God's love and His Son who was a stranger to me. His name was Jesus. While the pastor preached, every so often I would hear a deep bass voice shout out an “Amen!” which startled and yet felt somehow right to me.
I don’t remember a lot of the details of the sermon that was preached, but not because it wasn’t interesting. I know it began to change me, but not until a little later did I truly understand God's saving grace and mercy. At this present time, however, I was busy checking out the people. They seemed like a different kind of species. Although they were of different ages, nationalities and status quo, they nonetheless portrayed a true sense of togetherness and joyfulness.
Then suddenly I was jolted out of my spectator status and thrust into a panic (at least for me!) as the service ended in the church’s tradition of joining hands (oh yes! mine included) and sang, “Blest be the ties that bind, our hearts in Christian love, the fellowship of kindred hearts, are like to Thee above.” Ok, now this (truly not exaggerating in my mind at this point) catapulted me further into outer space — why it had to be another dimension! I honestly remember thinking, “Who ARE these crazy people and what am I doing here!!???”
Well, praise God for it all! Since that time I can report that I have learned that the church is not the alien, but rather “the world” is. And I am so very thankful that God called me to have an encounter with Him through His church. My conversion was yes!...an out-of-this-world experience!
I am now one of them – the church! How marvelous it is to gather together in praise, worship, and draw near to God – proclaiming the good news and making disciples of all nations (and our local communities!). I will be forever grateful and thankful to God for what I call my first encounter of the third kind!
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
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