Monday, December 7, 2009
What a day of blessings! Praise God!
The blessings did flow at the Lino Lakes Senior Center yesterday as we celebrated our first Sunday morning worship service in the history of Chain of Lakes Church. It was a fabulous day that exceeded all of our expectations.
The numbers were outstanding: forty-one people attended—thirty adults and eleven youth & children. Two new families attended. Three families who we met for the first time at the Cedar Lake 7 concert last week also attended.
The service went off without a significant glitch. That is more of an accomplishment than you can imagine. I was sure something would go wrong and prepared the gathered crowd for a glitch. But no glitches.
And the Spirit----wow!!
Let me share some stories that I took from our first Sunday morning worship service.
As my daughter, Hannah, and I pulled up to the Senior Center parking lot we were greeted by a police car. An officer was sitting in his running car doing work on his computer. This reminded me of our first “?Why” event last spring when we had to explain to a police officer why we had accidentally turned on the alarm system of Abundant Life Church. What is it with police officers and first events at Chain of Lakes??? I’m hopeful that someday the traffic will be so crowded at our services that we will need a police officer to direct traffic. But a police officer—again?
I was so delighted by the experience of our very first acolyte lighting our candles. I am implementing an acolyte ministry in worship. I bought a candle lighter/snuffer last week and secured a boy to be an acolyte. I didn’t think it would be too hard. How hard is it to light a candle? Well I discovered that I am the one who needs acolyte training! As I tried to show the young boy before worship how to light the candles, I realized that I wasn’t doing this right. When we came back to the hallway outside our worship space after the practice the boy’s mother said, “I was an acolyte once.” I immediately said, “why don’t you be in charge of this part of worship.” And she took charge—and the lighting of the candles went very well. As I stood beside them watching her coaching her son in the lighting of the candles I was boisterously laughing inside of me. God does have a sense of humor.
I had no idea who would show up yesterday. To use New Church Development language this was not our launch service. That will take place on January 31, 2010. We didn’t do a lot of advertising for the service—we just encouraged people in our group to come. The first person didn’t show up until around 10:00 a.m.—a half a hour before the start of worship. Do you know what it is like to wait by yourself and not know how many will show? As I waited in am empty building I sat in a chair in our children’s room and prayed for people. Then the people started coming and coming and coming. And the people came—more than we expected. Wow!
The theme of worship yesterday was letting your love overflow—it came from the Philippians lectionary passage. In the sermon I shared a vision of what letting love overflow could like for our new church, and then I got practical and asked everyone to write on an index card how they could let their love overflow this week. I invited everyone to put their index cards on the Communion table. We could all barely fit around the Communion table. After we had all put our cards on the table we held hands and prayed together. As we were holding hands a person from our Core Group whispered in my ear, “this is awesome, Paul!” That moment was the best part of worship for me.
I was touched this past week about all the work that has gone on in the past five years to establish Chain of Lakes Church. Last week I pulled out a timeline and reviewed the work that took place in our Presbytery to establish this church. The first meeting took place in February 2004. Hundreds, possibly over a thousand meetings, took place since then. The work was hard, slow, and there were many days when the resistance to starting a new church seemed too strong. I shared with the group gathered in worship yesterday that their presence was a fulfillment of a dream that many people shared. It is humbling to see a dream borne of faith, hope and persistence begin to take shape.
I am also grateful for all the people who held up Chain of Lakes in their prayers last week. Late last week I sent out an E-mail request to all the people in our Presbytery who pray for Chain of Lakes asking for prayers for our first service. This morning I received an E-mail from a man who said he spent much of the weekend praying for us. A couple from another Presbyterian Church who attended our service yesterday shared that they pray for Chain of Lakes every morning. These prayers were answered yesterday. I say that because the experience yesterday far exceeded what any of us could have imagined. Only God could have orchestrated this.
By the way—if you would like to be added to the list of people who pray for Chain of Lakes, send me an E-mail.
Finally, I was touched by all the smiles on the faces of our Core Group. They have worked very hard since we first gathered on February 16th. Going from seven families to a first worship service is pioneering work. It’s full of starts and stops and uncertainty and most of all it’s full of faith. I was touched yesterday to see the joy on the faces of the pioneers of Chain of Lakes.
John Calvin wrote that in Communion that we are lifted by the Spirit to receive a glimpse of heaven. I believe that we received a glimpse of heaven yesterday in worship at Chain of Lakes. At this notion all I can do is get on my knees and say, “thank you, God!”