Today I looked out at the people worshiping in our church, and I think I saw heaven. Is that hyperbole? Perhaps, of course, yea and no. I'll just tell you what happened.
My church (Redeemer) has a partnership with Family Affair Ministries (FAM). FAM is a church and non-profit outreach to the poor in East Nashville. Our relationship began early in the life of Redeemer when my friend Barbara invited me to go and visit FAM with her. What I saw there blew me away. I saw the Kingdom of God in action. I saw a community that responded quickly and with great faith in order to offer a "hand up, not a hand out." I truly saw them living their vision: restoring families, rebuilding communities, through God's hand extended.
When I say we are partners, I really mean it. We have a day to day, actual working relationship with one another. As part of that relationship, we arranged a "pulpit swap." This is when pastors preach at each other's churches. I set up Glenda's visit for the Sunday after Easter, which was today. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that she was not coming alone. Her youth ministry was going to present the offertory, and her entire congregation was going to join us. They literally closed their church today and all came over to our facility.
We have two services on Sunday, with Sunday school for all ages in between. We held our normal Anglican worship, and Glenda preached. Between services she shared the vision God has given her for FAM's ministry, of which we are a part. The preaching was awesome, the music and worship and fellowship were all inspiring.
Here is the heaven part, though. My congregation is very inter-generational. No generation dominates the church. However, our congregation is not particularly inter-racial. Yes, there are several persons of color who are important parts of our church, but we are definitely dominated by whites. FAM, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly African-American. So, when we were in worship today, the joined congregation presented a wealth of racial, cultural, generational, and economic groups.
To be amongst that sort of diversity is great. But to experience the unity of the Holy Spirit in that diversity is, well, heavenly.
I honestly wish that every Sunday at Redeemer could be more like this Sunday. I wish the leadership of our church could reflect this kind of unified diversity. I am grateful to God for the diversity we have, but today made me long for more. More than diversity, today made me long for heaven. It made me long for the New Jerusalem, in which all the tribes and peoples of the earth will worship God together as one. When I looked up today in worship, that is what I saw. It made me long for more.
A picture of the New Jerusalem, given in the Bible (Revelation 21:22-26): "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it."