Monday, April 1, 2013

Picture This: God's Immanence

 "The immanence of God is a very precious and glorious truth," wrote Percy Ainsworth in his sermon titled Star Counting and Heart Healing based on Psalm 147: 3,4: He heals the broken-hearted...He determines the number of the stars (NRSV). God is not only God of the countless stars, he is very much present with each individual broken heart too, healing it.

A little more than a month ago, February 24th to be exact, as Lisa reminded me after Easter worship yesterday, I posted Spiritual Patriotism. That post included quotes from another Ainsworth sermon, The Pilgrim Church. I shared how worship at my church never fails to point me to God and His Kingdom. Well, on Easter Sunday I took a few pictures of our magnificent Easter worship, to help illustrate this experience of our Immanent God.

When I entered, the sanctuary was ablaze with light and color. Flowers and people dressed in all the colors of Spring vied with each other. My eyes opened wide with wonder as I sensed God among us. Sensing God's immanence - inherent presence in everything - and responding with joie de vivre, the Chancel Choir and musicians - especially the trumpets and trombone - out-did themselves in proclaiming the resurrection and victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the unparalleled Conqueror of Death! It wasn't all peaks, there were valleys too. As when we remembered the sufferings of many people and prayed for the Mario family in our sister church community at El Nino, Mexico. On Saturday, they had just buried their little girl Leila who'd lost her tragic fight with bacterial meningitis. Pr. Scott's sermon "No Idle Tale" (Luke 24, ESV) was practical, nourishing and inspiring. How do we believe that Jesus resurrection is real, true? Pr. Scott would stake his life on it. Do I? Do you? Peter might have dismissed Mary's vision as an idle tale, but he still ran to the tomb because he wanted to believe it. "Fairy tales are more than true - not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten," Scott reminded us, quoting G.K. Chesterton. Jesus has beaten death and so have we.

The vibrant colors, stirring music, and thoughtful sermon were an experience of God's mysterious grace, presence, and kingdom among us. It was also an experience of his immanence in the ordinary, if only we have eyes to see and minds to understand. What followed after worship, thanks to Suzanne and Andy and their helpers, layered it in, in another sense, the sweet taste of foodie love :). Doughnuts and pastries from French's Bakery were lovingly served on beautifully arranged platters; disappearing in record time, they were continuously and seemingly never-endingly replenished :). I loved seeing the different generations together, such a common sight when I was growing up that doesn't happen quite so often nowadays; children, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, hanging out, everybody enjoying the treats. Pam's artificial flower posies, made out of paper napkins and pinned on a paper white lace doily, and table flower pots caught everybody's eyes, as much as the pastries, but I will have to post them separately; those pictures didn't come out well at all because I forgot to turn off the auto flash function on my camera. Which turned out to be a good thing because Pam is now going to teach me how to make them!

How do you experience God's immanence?

References: The Percy Ainsworth book I am reading is titled The Pilgrim Church and Other Sermons. London: Kelly, 1909, 1913. I am reading the electronic version which is freely available from The Open Library (previously called Pr. Scott's sermon "No Idle Tale" and other sermons of his are available from the Irvine Pres. Sermons Online media archive.

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