This Sunday morning was interesting. If you’re not from ’round here, you probably don’t understand why a little rain throws us into a panic. But rain is so unusual in the desert that we don’t quite know what to do. I teased the congregation that Sunday was practically apocalyptic! Humidity at 99%, a high of only 62°, and liquid falling from the sky! While I was joking, there is a measure of truth there. In addition to that, we had a HUGE Chinese New Year celebration in the auditorium the night before. Over 600 people attended. Much clean up and set-up going on late on a Saturday night means that early Sunday morning will feel groggy. Pastor Mike said to me just before the service began, “You do realize a lot of people will be 15 minutes late today, right?” And he was right.
I had planned a few minutes of chat before starting our first hymn. And we sang all the stanzas of said hymn. And then we sang a chorus a couple of times. So I stretched out the “opening hymn time” about as long as I could. We sang “O Zion, Haste” because 1) I love that hymn; and 2) because the mission field was in our auditorium just over 12 hours earlier! I choke up every time I sing that final stanza that asks us to sacrifice our prayers, our finances, and our children for God’s great work.
Next, I asked Pastor Mike’s new members class to come to the front as we sang the chorus “Around the Corner, Around the World”—again, emphasizing the fact that our mission field is all around each day. Pastor Mike introduced the folks who have gone through his new member’s class and were presenting themselves as candidates to join the church. We welcomed them heartily.
Then Pastor Mike asked the deacons to come to the front. Because the deacons are all on the Pulpit Committee that will present a candidate to the church to vote on as our next pastor, he wanted the church family to know the deacons and their wives. Then he asked the three additional members of the Pulpit Committee who function as “members-at-large” to introduce themselves as well. I snapped a picture of Pastor Mike praying over the Pulpit Committee. Very moving.
The choir sang “My Hope Is Jesus” with orchestra. It has a gospel feel to the music that our church family enjoys. I told the congregation that the quote of “The Solid Rock” in the middle of the choir song was a great reminder of the gospel presentation at last night’s celebration. After a rousing opener of 30 Chinese children from the Arizona Arts Academy twirling handkerchiefs to traditional Chinese music, the Time for Tots Preschool sang “The Wise Man Built His House upon the Rock.” This was a cute introduction to Pastor Mike’s telling the American story of “The Three Little Pigs.” We are celebrating, after all, the year of the pig! The third little pig’s wise choice to build a solid house was a fitting introduction to the Biblical parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock. And the gospel was clear as Pastor Mike explained that Christ is our sure foundation. After his challenge, the Chinese Bible Study class called “Cup of Blessings” sang a brand new Dr. Bryson setting of “The Solid Rock.” The theme was crystal clear and elegantly presented in the cultural context of the Chinese New Year.
Just to be clear, the above paragraph was about the Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday night. We did not have Chinese children dancing in the Sunday morning service!
After the choir sang, the congregation joined on the gospel song, “He Hideth My Soul in the Cleft of the Rock.” Because it is an older sounding tune, my congregation tends to get bored after a stanza or two. But I wanted to sing three stanzas. So I had the instruments modulate up a half step on the final stanza. I’m not sure that most in the congregation knew that even happened, but the “pick up” in enthusiastic participation was empirically discernable.
Pastor Mike gave a testimony of how the Lord has led him to his new job in the military. I teared up a couple different times as he related the remarkable circumstances that the Lord used to position him exactly where He wanted him to be. Because Pastor Mike spent so much time bragging on God, he had to cut his sermon short this week. “But the joy of preaching expositionally is that the text will still be there next week.”
Our offertory was the hymn “In Christ Alone.” Since we had just heard the introduction to Pastor Mike’s final sermon on Romans 14, I thought it a fitting conclusion to the service to remind ourselves that our decisions in every circumstance of life should be to the praise of His glory.