Monday, September 29, 2008

When a Text Comes to Life

I am back from a few wonderful days in Abilene. Brady Bryce, the new director of ACU Summit, did a fabulous job this year. He is more than a director; he is a minister of the Lord.
I enjoyed:
-Brisket BBQ (though I like the pork)
-Hernandez bakery (my breakfast spot with M-Cope)
-A meal at Lytle (with a few preacher friends)
-Some quality time with my parents & lil' bro
-And the chance to listen to two of my favorite speakers--Kayci & my mother

It was good to be back at my home in Memphis.

I eagerly await every Sunday because I never know how God is going to work among us. As much as I love it when visitors leave SVC saying, "That was a friendly church," I want them to experience something greater and deeper and more profound. I want people to leave saying, "I felt God there." Not because God has taken up resistance at our building, but because He is alive in the way we sing, pray, gather around the table, talk about Jesus, and love the world.

Two Sundays ago, we had planned the baptism of Lee Brown. (To see pictures click here). Lee had been homeless in Memphis for 20 year and 7 months. He is a big man with bad hygiene--meaning that he rarely showers. He began studying with John Kennedy (a mighty warrior of God) a few weeks ago and Lee wanted to receive and experience the power of baptism.
However, before early service, Lee and John pulled me aside and Lee told me that his mind wasn't in the right place today. He had gone to pick up one of his homeless friends the day before to bring him to church but he walked upon his friend only to find him dead. The friend had drank himself to death.
I told Lee that we would continue to talk about the power of baptism, but then I asked if we could bring him up to the front, lay hands on him, and pray for God's anointing in his life. He said, "Yes."
During the Call to Worship, I led our people in a prayer exercise, and immediately after the exercise was over, Lee and John came up to the front row right by me, and Lee said, "Mister Josh, when you led us in that prayer time, I was sitting back there praying about what I need to give up in my life, and I know that right now I need to be baptized."
This is the part in a worship service that can drive some people crazy. There are people who act as if the worship order is a fixed agenda for the Sunday. As we say with Scripture so some say with the worship order--"Do not add or take away."
However, I love it when God refuses to be confined by a worship order, an agenda, or a time-frame.
Now, at this point in the story about Lee some may be saying, "Why didn't you wait until the invitation?" I have found it to be so much more powerful when we allow the baptism to become part of the worship service. It then becomes participatory in nature--it isn't just something we watch, but it becomes a moment that does something to us and for us. 1) We remember our own baptism. 2) We commit our own lives again to live in the power of the resurrected Lord. 3) We become participants in the life of the one being baptized.
So, with that said, we altered our service.
It was one of the most powerful baptisms I have ever witnessed. Lee came up out of the water with a fist in the air hooting and hollering. The guy truly received and embraced the power of Jesus.
That's not where the story ends.
John and Lee came up out of the water and they came to the Table together. John led us in communion thoughts from Luke 14:12-14 about what kind of parties Jesus commands. He and Lee, who both had a mic, took turns sharing stories. John prayed for the bread, (and hold your breath)--Lee prayed for the cup.
A man who had been homeless for 20 years and 7 months was baptized during our service, and then he led us in the prayer for the cup. That is something that doesn't happen every day in churches across America.

My sermon for the day was from Luke 5:12-16. It is the story of Jesus touching a man with leprosy. I say "touching the man" because the story is more about Jesus touching the untouchable than it is about Jesus healing an awful disease.
We saw this text come to life right in front of us with Lee Brown--a man who is now becoming one of the greatest ministers in our church and in the city of Memphis.

7 comments:

Charlton said...

Powerful! Thanks!

Charlton said...

Powerful! Thanks!

mouseclicker said...

I was in the crow's nest at the time. I'm glad that the Lord had something else in mind. It was great to see a new brother in Christ praying over the cup. This is the first I've seen of this--praying over his first communion. I'm glad that he was able to take his first communion together with the community of believers.

Tammie's Thoughts said...

Jpsh,
Look at my blog (tammieh.blogspot,com) and see pictures a a story about Lee, but more important, look at the comment from my daughter...it is a small world and I have to believe that God will use this event to work on her heart somehow!

kcox said...

AMEN!!!

westcoastwitness.com said...

Hiya Josh.

I ran across a link to this blog from another, and wanted to let you know this is an inspiring story.

I used to be a Memphis resident myself and DJ'd for one of the local stations before becoming a Christian.

You don't happen to know Anthony Wood, do you?

Anyway, keep up the good work. Inspiring post!

-Wes Woodell

Josh Ross said...

Wes,
I know Anthony...only through email. I have never met him.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to get to know you better.