As people drift in, excitement mounts. Anticipation surrounds us. The church seats about 150, with perhaps seventy present, although their milling about makes it seem fuller. Most of the men wear coats and ties, with most women in dresses. All age groups are present.
A choir opens the service, singing with enthusiasm. We sing old-time hymns with piano accompaniment. They sing with vigor and draw me in. Our collective volume makes our number seem larger. These folks certainly enjoy their hymns, singing with more gusto than I can ever recall.
We stand for the scripture and read it in unison. My wife scrambles for the lone pew Bible in our row so we can follow along using their King James Version. We read Hebrews 12:12-17 about bitterness.
The minister likens the root of bitterness to the tenacity of a yucca plant, for which he has great disdain. He’s a gifted speaker, dynamic and entertaining. He shares four characteristics of bitterness and concludes with steps to rid ourselves of this destructive trait, ending with Paul’s instruction to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:31-32). He leaves us with the parting reminder that “forgiveness removes transgression, but doesn’t automatically restore fellowship.”
When the service ends, people shake our hands and invite us back. Each time, I simply respond with “thank you.” To me this means, “I hear you and appreciate the invitation” without making a promise I won’t keep. But I’m not sure what they hear when I say it.
Today we heard a powerful message, one the best in the past thirty weeks. We worshiped God with people who are passionate about singing to him and who enjoy each other’s company. They sure are enthusiastic about their faith.