And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16 (NIV)
My wife, Sue, and I just returned from a Christmas get-a-way in Chicago. We spent a nourishing night and a day together while we shopped ‘til I dropped, enjoyed delicious food, and gazed in awe at the Chicago skyline while being mesmerized by Lake Michigan. Our surprising highlight was celebrating Advent at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue.
Stepping into this stunning cathedral, with every seat taken, immediately caught me off guard. In an instant, I went from worship to worry. We were a late and I was hoping to slip into the back of the church unnoticed. Before I could hang a u-turn and regroup, an attentive and forceful usher was leading us down the center isle while the service was in progress and instructing several parishioners to squish in to accommodate us. I was mortified and unsure how this all had happened so quickly. As I recovered from my shock I realized I was not breathing.
Sue wedged herself in first. I looked at the space remaining and knew there was not enough runway to land this plane. Not breathing was helpful as I, as inconspicuously as possible, wedged myself into the cubbyhole left for me at the end of the pew. I felt like a Hummer being parked in a small car only space. I was so grateful that I had the presence of mind to rip my coat off while marching down the aisle; otherwise, I would never have been able to wedge myself in.
Within seconds of my insertion, my right leg had gone numb and the high end piece on the 100 year old oak pew was threatening to sever the brachial artery in my arm. At this state of shock, my only other concern was that when I get nervous I sweat abundantly. I am not the guy who has the oil spill under his arms—no, I am the one who looks like someone just turned the sprinklers on my balding head.
The next thing I remember hearing was the warmth and strength of the voice of John Buchanan, the Senior Pastor at Fourth Pres. He was introducing of all things a capital campaign. I found myself feeling a sense of love and experiencing a sense of peace flood over me. I knew Buchanan’s heart for relationships and his concern for those who were less fortunate. He was guiding his congregation to embrace the point where service, faith and love all came together.
Buchanan was creating an experience of God’s love that was precisely what my soul needed. How ironic, that in a style of worship I was not familiar and a church in which I was a guest, I felt myself calm down and experience the peace of God. I was safe and I was at home. I experienced the love, acceptance, and patience of God through our usher, my buddies in the pew, the community of saints, and my pastor for the morning.
I was reminded of the primacy of relationships and the irreplaceable foundation of love. I had a renewed vision for the work being done at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment. At CLE we are encouraging and training each other to multiply our talents, fulfill our mission, and remind each other that he who lives in love lives in God, and God in him. I knew John Buchanan was not only my brother but my ally in the ministry of redemption. Until all know and experience the personal and unconditional love of God, we won’t rest.
John Buchanan closed his message with a beautiful poem: