Free People Freely Assemble!
I went to a funeral yesterday. It was the mother of a woman in our congregation. She was a pastor's wife. She spent years and years in ministry. The preacher, her son in law, tried to find out what her favorite verse was. He couldn't find out from her because she said that they were all good. Finally, after she'd died, he found one verse written in the front of her bible. It was 1 Chronicles 28:20. It is a part of a passage of David encouraging his son Solomon to continue his work for the house of the Lord. Here's what it says, and this is what the preacher read yesterday:
Be strong and of good courage, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.The church was packed. So packed that we had to stand at the back. I was there mostly for my friend who lost her mom. I didn't expect anything to happen. But when he read this verse, I was shaken. Shaken to the core. It was a sudden and shocking reminder of what I feel I am to do: serve the house of the Lord. I had been getting overwhelmed lately... confused and exhausted. I was constantly contemplating living the life of an artist. But this verse thundered through all my confusions and reminded me of my task. I'll try to share it in a nutshell. I think that Christians have the right to assemble, just like any other religious group. So I am not only concerned with people. I am also concerned with what happens when we assemble. I have experienced, witnessed and am aware of how much coercion, manipulation, abuse and plain silliness goes on in the assembly. I want to see people, all people, set free. But too often, if not always, the assembly prevents this from happening. Is it possible for people to be completely set free and also to assemble without jeopardizing this freedom? I remember the story of when St. Francis came across a ruined church building, all grown over and crumbled in upon itself. He heard the Lord ask him to rebuild his church. That started his ministry. Unapologetically, I think the church is in ruins. When the preacher read that verse yesterday, it reminded me that I have a job to do, and a worthwhile one: to provide a safe place for truly free people (the first arduous task) to gather in true freedom (the second). Complete freedom.