To say I was excited about church last Lord’s Day morning would be an understatement. While preparing my sermon on “Snakes and Stones,” I’d had a moment of insight that was so powerful it felt like divine revelation. Literally, I got goosebumps as I was telling Randa about it. It was the sort of confirmation that made me feel like the Spirit was definitely leading me in my preparation and would also lead me in the delivery of the lesson from Matthew Chapter Seven about “asking, seeking and knocking.”
In addition to that, Randa and I had been practicing for a month on a contemporary Christian song that is simple yet powerful, a song of worship, adoration, hope and comfort. Even though we’d gone through the song at least two dozen times or more, there were times when I’d still get choked up. The power of “no more sorrow, no more pain” from Chris Tomlin’s I Will Rise would wash over me and my throat would get so tight I couldn’t get the words out. Even in our rehearsals here in our small living room, we worshipped. And worked on getting the notes right.
Okay, Randa worked on getting the notes right, searching for just the right third or fifth, whether going higher or lower. I mostly just kept singing the same ones over and over. She’s the real talent of this musical team, the one who can actually hear and find the harmony parts that so often elude me. Somewhere around the thirtieth time through, she was close enough to comfortable that she agreed we could go ahead and sing the song on Sunday.
And so I went to bed Saturday night, full of hope and optimism for our worship at the Community Church of South Haven. “Dear Lord,” I prayed, “Let your Spirit come into this church tomorrow.” That prayer and both the song and the sermon kept running through my mind and it was over an hour after going to bed that sleep finally found me. It left a few times during the night, though, and every time I woke up, the lyrics of that song were on constant rewind.
When the sound of distant thunder woke us Sunday morning, I lay awake for several minutes, not really feeling like I’d been to sleep at all. In spite of the slight temptation to slumber a bit longer, I got up, went to the kitchen and started a batch of homemade cranberry-walnut scones. Something a little extra to welcome folks to worship.
In spite of the rain that alternated between sprinkles and downpour on our drive over from Ark City to South Haven, we were both in good spirits. As we headed toward downtown, I saw a large RV with a small trailer parked on the street in front of the church. “Probably somebody visiting the people that live right across the street,” I thought as I turned into the parking lot, splashing through the stream of water that washed across the packed gravel, following the depressions formed by years of tires.
I parked in the reserved spot right by the back door and we gathered up the basket of scones, my Bible and notebook, and guitar, wishing we each had an extra hand and an umbrella for it to hold. As soon as we got into the building, one of the members met us in the hallway and said, “There’s some guys here that want to talk to you. The leader’s name is Bryan.”
I would quote my exact thought here but I’d hate for you to lose that saintly image you most likely have of me. “Oh, boogers!” would be a fairly approximate paraphrase.
“They want to sing a song,” she continued. “Nope, they’re not singing a song,” I replied. She said, “Okay,” and headed back over to the sanctuary.
“What is this?” I yelled to myself. “I’ve got this all planned out—scripture, sermon, song, everything. I’m not letting some bunch of people that I don’t know come in here and take over the service.”
Randa set the basket of scones on the small serving table in the back of the sanctuary and I walked up front and set my guitar on the nearest pew, knowing no one would want to sit on the very front row if there were any other options. I walked over and greeted the piano player while she continued with the prelude. I made my way to the back in time to see “Bryan” stand up and hug Randa when she introduced herself. “Oh, boy,” I thought, “One of those guys.”
Sure enough, when I introduced myself, he ignored my outstretched hand and hugged me. “Dude,” I grimaced to myself, “this is Kansas. You don’t hug men you’ve just met. It just ain’t proper.” We spoke briefly or rather I should say that I interrogated Bryan in a less than cordial manner:
“Are you going to make an appeal for financial support?”
“How many songs are you wanting to sing?”
“What song would that be?”
“Well, let me talk to a couple of people…”
On our way out into the hallway, a couple of scriptures came to me. One was “I was a stranger and you took me in.” The other was similar, “Be careful to show hospitality to strangers, for some thereby have entertained angels,” a reference to Abraham just before a heck of a hailstorm hit Sodom and Gomorrah.
After conferring with Randa and Pam, I took a bulletin over to Bryan, pointed near the bottom of the left hand column and said, “We’re going to plug you guys in right after the ‘Children’s Sermon.'”
Then I went up front, sat down with a sigh and Pam welcomed everyone and church began.
At the designated time, Bryan and Hunter and another guy came up. Ben or Noah went over to the piano. Bryan introduced their group, explaining they were on their way from Minneapolis to Texas and had sung in Wichita on Saturday night. “For some reason, we just felt like we were supposed to take this exit. When we got over here, we passed this church and knew this was where we were supposed to be this morning.”
They sang their song, one Bryan wrote, I think, about “Giving It All” to Jesus. The folks listened, enjoyed it and were blessed by it. Not one word about needing financial support.
Bryan had kept his word so I added more to mine. I dumped out the morning’s collection on the table and passed the plates around a second time. “These boys need to eat,” I said, and the people responded.
After the sermon and our song—which by the way—was quite well-received by the visiting musicians and the home town folks, I gave the benediction and dismissed the congregation. There was a lot of standing around and visiting.
Bryan was rather taken aback when I handed him the money; someone had put in a hundred dollar bill and I left that wrapped around a decent collection of twenties, tens and fives. He headed out to the RV and came back with a box full of their CD’s and gave everybody that was still there at least one copy.
Then, a few of us took the boys down the street to Kay’s Café, home of “The Best Burger in Town,” a claim which is undisputed since the burgers actually are quite good and Kay’s Café is the only place in town. We all had a good lunch and a good visit.
So far as I know, Bryan and the boys are in Texas now, singing at Teen Challenge locations and other congregations. We’ve invited the boys to come back on their way home from Texas. Do a proper concert, not just a limited sample. Seemed like the right thing to do for a group of young men out on the road, traveling on faith, sharing their talents, blessing folks and giving folks the opportunity to be a blessing.
And I was reminded once again, that when you invite the Spirit to come in, you have to be willing to alter your own plans about exactly what that might look like. Seems like it’s always easier to think about other folks yielding to his work…