I never intended for this to have a theme to it, but it seemed appropriate. Last week, if you read my blog, was about a trip I took with 6-8 grade kids. This past weekend, I took a group of 12 youth (12-20 years old), 12 adults (up to 65), and 3 seniors (older than that) on a trip to Oklahoma City where we worshipped with a Messianic Jewish Congregation, visited the Bombing Memorial and worshipped with the homeless and those who live at or below poverty level in downtown Oklahoma City and after the service we served them dinner and visited with them. I learned things yet again, but this time it was from those who had left their youth behind them, so it is lessons I learned from age (at least I didn't say "the aged!")
First of all, I learned that the youth are well behaved. I was impressed both last week and this week by the way the youth of this congregation and community conduct themselves. They were curteous, reached out to those we worshiped with in both congregations, and were gracious in their service. I also learned that the adults of the group could be rowdier than the kids, get lost more than the kids, and could sass worse than the kids. God love 'em! So I guess my overall lesson is how to deal with grown-ups! Seriously, we had a good time, some of us had a better time than others!
Second, I had a really neat experience at the evening service. I told the people that went with me that we were worshipping with the homeless in their church and that we are the visitors. Later that evening, 0ne of the women in my group told one of the men attending the service (one who obviously lived on the street) that he had a beautiful church. The look of surprise and shock on his face which was slowly replaced with the realization that it was his church and something he could take ownership and pride in. He told her thank you, and walked off with his plate. I was thinking that it was probably the first time in his recent history he could take that kind of ownership. It was a really moving moment for me.
Third, the day was one of celebration (because the worship service in the Messianic Jewish congregation was very lively and one of celebration!) one of remembrance (at the Oklahoma City National Memorial), and one of service (as we served a meal to the homeless). It was also one of happiness, sorrow and healing at all three places. At the first service we are listening to a reading from Exodus talking about the glory of God so intense, Moses couldn't go into the temple. That has got to be an overwhelming feeling of the presence of God. Good yes, but also a time of sorrow when we recognize how much we fall short of that glory. It is also a good feeling knowing that even though we fall pitifully short of the glory of God, we are loved by God, and God keeps working with us.
At the memorial there were stories of tragedy and devastation that happened that day. But there were also signs of hope in the way Oklahomans responded to reach out to their friends and neighbors affected by the bombing, and the way the rest of the world reached out to Oklahomans. Healing happens when people go through the memorial and that brings about peace.
And then there is sorrow in seeing the people who through circumstances either that they brought on themselves or beyond their control have ended up in a situation you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. But there is great joy in being able sit and talk with these people, knowing that they still have so much to offer the world. It gives you hope for what God is and can do in their lives, and that you are priviledge to be a small part of that.
I hope you find experiences that change your life this week. I hope you experience joy and not sorrow, but if it has to be sorrow, I hope that joy is mingled with it. I hope that you allow all experiences to bring grace and draw you closer to God.