Today was a good day (minus the fact that I got as much sleep as if it were a weekday at Wake, I had two exams the next day, and a baby with intense intestinal cramps was sleeping - or lack thereof - next to me). I got up early to head over to church. It's Hillsong's church. For those who don't know what Hillsong is, its a Church in Australia that has a worship band that writes their own worship songs in a very rock sort of way. It's kinda like if Bono decided to retire from the Rock Music world and try to make it big in Worship music (only Bono's lyrics would probably be a little deeper than those of Hillsong - not to diss Hillsong of course, it's just that Bono is similar to that of a modern day Ghandi with a Guitar... maybe I'm stretching it...).
We showed up there 10 minutes early. I hadn't realized that they rented out the seemingly largest west end theater to hold this event... Not bad... There was a giant cross on the big screen, a cool, mellow mood from dimly colored lights, and everyone there seemed to be younger and very nice. The video at the beginning of the service was cool, state-of-the-art, and trendy. Yet, when the worship band came out, I felt like I had been transported from church to a Miley Cyrus concert. The songs I was unfamiliar with, the bright beam lights nearly blinded and blind-sided me, and the strobe light effect nearly sent me into epileptic shock... oh, and there was a young, really attractive girl on stage singing (yeah - i know - i would notice that). I was able to make the most of it, got to know the songs and sang them decently well, but there's just something about lots of lights and jumping up and down in a mosher's fashion that I'm just not comfortable with (thanks Presbyterian you-put-your-hand-in-the-air-you-die church - I kid, I love the Presbyterian church... but seriously, we're the frozen chosen...). Overall, by the end with the sermon and everything, I just didn't feel comfortable and at home. I feel like church is a place you should look enthusiastically forward to each and every week rather than have a sense of listless foreboding (similar to that of the death of Patrick Swayze - seriously, we all knew it was coming... too soon?... hmmmmm... maybe....). I needed more church today - which is exactly what I did that night (Church twice in one day! God forbid! - ironic? TOTALLY!).
To put it into simple terms: Holy Trinity Brompton = a;poijwafe;oiajwf;oajwf;oawjf;oaiwjfe!!!!! Or for you older readers: Holy Trinity Brompton = Groovy. HTB (no, that's not some sexual disease - it's short for Holy Trinity Brompton if that flew over your head) Worship was rock-ish, but not "OMG LET'S BLOW SOMETHING UP!" rock-ish. It was real. It reminded me of Emmaus. The fact that the speaker was able to incorporate a story of something he learned while he was hammered (before his Christian days), a woman was able to stand up in front of the crowd and openly talk about her days of eating disorder and suicidal thoughts prior to getting involved with HTB Church, and the pastor was able to break down Christianity in a deep way for both seeker and established church member, made this church feel like home. Everything was REAL. I think that's what I loved the most. The people, the worship, the atmosphere. It didn't need to play music in the background during prayer, it didn't need a flashy light show, it didn't need an auditorium with great acoustics - all it needed was Jesus. And I believe he was there tonight. On top of everything else, my reading list has three new books courtesy of the HTB Bookstore (this place just keeps racking up the cool points! - kinda like Will Ferrell before he made "Land of the Lost.").
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (CHECK!)
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (CHECK!)
Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado (CHECK!)
Desiring God by John Piper
The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (NEW!)
Wild at Heart by John Eldridge (NEW!)
If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg (NEW!)
I was especially intrigued by the last one. My dad recently gave me a two-part sermon series by John Ortberg on fearless giving and how everything we have on this earth is inherently God's. If all that we have in this life in the end goes "back into the box", back into the grave, and doesn't come with us into the afterlife, then why is it so hard for us to give it up? And why should we give it up? It was a great two sermon series that I plan on probably listening to again and taking notes on. Suffice to say, I'm now a fan. But here's his new question: In what ways is the Lord telling you, as he did Peter, "Come"?
Today I saw 8 hobos.
8 men with no home, no money, and only the clothes on their back.
They sit by train stations, bus stations, on the curb, on the sidewalk, on the street, begging for just a little spare change. The problem is we know that inevitably, they'll buy drugs, cigarettes, or boos with the money. Every single time I see one of those men, with a ragged beard, dirty fingernails, tattered wool cap, my heart yearns to help them. My heart aches to get down on my knee and ask them, "Hey... you wanna go and get some food." Just to sit and listen to them. To understand them. To hear their life story. To encourage them. To maybe pray for them. I've wanted to do this for so long, and 8 times I had my chance today.
But it's always "I don't have enough time" or "I'm not in the mood" or "I don't know what he'll say" etc. The fact is though, the #1 thing that stops many Christians, many Americans, from doing such charitable, radical love-giving: is fear. Fear of the unknown. What will happen? How will the man react? Will people stare if you walk in with him? Will he start rambling? Will he make a scene? Will he refuse your offer? Will you be embarrassed? All these swirl in my mind as I slowly look down at the sidewalk and pass by the man who does not know me, does not perhaps know a good meal, and even more importantly does not perhaps know love. Self-less love. Maybe invite him to church. Maybe not. I've learned that I've been ignoring a lot of God's callings to say and do things in my life because they're not the "social norms." There's this idea of a Status Quo (I would que High School Musical but I'm trying to be serious here for a second) - a way in which the world works. Diverting from such can leave you as a social leper. You don't follow the code and sometimes you will not get your way or what you want as easily.
But Jesus wasn't a follower of the Status Quo. He didn't stick to the social norms. He laid his hands on the outcasts, touched them, and gave them life. And if we, as Christians, are supposed to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus, why can't we? Why can't you? And why can't I?
It's about stepping out of out onto the water when God calls us, outside of our comfort bubble, outside of our known territory, and leaving our fear behind, changing the world with one small step at a time, as we move farther away from our heart and move closer towards His. If we can let God live through us, then what is there to fear?
New Goal for England: Take Homeless Guy to a Meal.
Thanks for listening to the rant. A little more serious than usual. I'll be back to the Steve Urkel jokes next time.