My heart is filled with joy at the events of today. First service this morning, I had the privilege of speaking about something that was really on my heart, the unity of the church. Fortunately, I do not have to speak about it because of divisions in our church. That is a cause for praise in itself, for many are not so fortunate. Rather, I speak about it simply because it is a key petition in Jesus’ prayer of John 17 and because I see so many among conservative Christian churches who take the comfortable route of relating only to those like themselves without asking how they are going to be part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer. I remember an elderly member of my first congregation, Elmer Young, said to me that much of what went on in church on Sunday was “preventive maintenance.” He is so right. That is another reason for listening to the words of Jesus’ prayer.
Then in our second service, we had a chance to put that preaching into practice as we welcomed to our church our friends from the the Karen Wesleyan church in Utica. Our ESL team led by JoAnne Jones and Beth Winans travels there most Saturdays during the school year to help in teaching English. On this Sunday, the Utica church’s youth and adult choirs visit our service and share the story of Karen refugees and sing for us in Karen and English. We finish the day with a big meal together. It is a joy to hear from brothers and sisters in Christ and to welcome new friends, some of whom do not yet speak English.
Tonight I took part in a purity celebration as many of our teens committed themselves to live pure lives, taking a different path from so much of the rest of society. Pastor Eric spoke from the story of Esau despising his birthright (Ge. 25:29-34) and reminded us all that it is too easy to trade our most highly valued long term treasures, especially less tangible ones, for immediate short term pleasure, just as Easu did. At the end, the teens signed cards. Some received purity rings and all signed a personal “stone of remembrance.” then Pastor Eric and I and the parents and friends prayed a prayer of blessing for them.
It was a day full of joy.