After Gardner Gay invited us to attend a Saturday “Rap on Race,” Molly and I have tried to show up as “Christian Visitors” at least once a month, at the church where Gardner had been helping out with some program projects.
A group of eight of us went to his northside African American Church that first Sunday. We were tentative, but determined, and were welcomed publicly and openly.
We go back every third or fourth Sunday. We miss our own church on those days, but we are welcomed truly as Christian visitors. Brian’s preaching is personal, confessional, intense, earnest, and clearly “full of the Spirit.” He gets “on a roll” with colorful language, intense descriptions of the human predicament, with always the urgent invitation to let Jesus be first in our lives. “Welcome Him INSIDE,” he and the choir insisted.
There was lots of singing, many “Amens!” and “Yes, Lord,” and hands raised, and bodies swayed in beautiful praise to the Lord.
On a recent Sunday, a young man of the church gave the sermon. He spoke of a period of incarceration in prison and how he came to Christ while there. He came out of prison a changed man. He invited everyone there into that change for themselves. It was a winsome call, and a deeply persuasive invitation. My heart would love to have at least stood up.
The sermon ended and it was Benediction time – blessing time. Two or three different people were invited forward to be surrounded for prayer.
As they walked back to their seats, Brian the Pastor, microphone in hand, said, “There are two others we want to pray for.” And he gathered several others as he came down into the congregation.
Suddenly we realized they were walking directly toward us. They surrounded us. They embraced us. They held our hands. For these two 90-something old people, it was our first experience quite like this.
“We want to pray for the Rouners,” Brian said. “They were called by God to go. To go to the lands of blood where genocide was happening. People were being murdered by their neighbors. The country of Rwanda was in chaos. But these two went and gave 25 years of their lives to washing the feet of that country, and opening the doors of forgiveness and reconciliation. Thank you, Lord, that they went, that you blessed them. And that they’ve come here in that same spirit. Thank you for these two. Pour out Your Spirit upon them. We love them and bless them in your Name!”
For long minutes we were held in their embrace, lifted by their prayers – which then turned into the benediction for the whole congregation.
We were lifted by the Spirit – ourselves so blessed. A visitation from the Lord Himself to wing us on our way home with an Advent joy and hope that has not left us.
They came praying. Oh, did they! My Advent blessing by visitation of the Spirit of Jesus, be with you these wonderful days of Christmas coming.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
|Arthur Rouner Ministries||
ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. . ."