By Carrie Weatherford, MDiv ’16, Director of Children and Family Ministries at Roswell Presbyterian Church
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah 11:2 (NRSV)
Through August and September, I was able to gather around a small table with a group of really special people. Usually, it was a table right outside the Broyles Leadership Center in the courtyard. I am pretty sure that if our same group had gathered at a restaurant, people might wonder how we all came to be together.
This group, you see, is made up of incredibly different people. Our differences are vast—from a very tall Jamaican man to a tiny Korean woman. We are different genders, different skin colors, born and raised in completely different environments. Each person has had different struggles from divorce, to cancer, to job loss, and more. Our religious backgrounds look nothing alike. Some people in this group knew each other in different capacities before the meetings and some had never met. Some felt very much part of this Columbia Theological Seminary community and others a bit on the outskirts.
So what could this group possibly have in common? We were called to be part of a team, a team charged to lead worship together. We gathered around a table and according to the boundaries and prejudices of the world, this should have been a difficult task. But what happened was beautiful.
From our very first meeting, we came together and we prayed. We prayed and the Holy Spirit made herself known. Throughout our meetings, we asked the Spirit to be our guide. We allowed ourselves to trust the Spirit, to take us to places that were out of our comfort zone, to stretch us, so that we could do the will of God. The Spirit broke any unnecessary human boundaries that we may have brought, and the Spirit moved in a mighty way. The people gathered at that table are my friends, but more importantly they are my family in Christ—my brother Eton and my sisters Millicent, Kate, and Carolyn.
Prayer of Illumination: Holy Spirit, you are very much welcome here. Flood this place and fill this very atmosphere. O God, let us be so aware of your presence so that we may truly be overwhelmed with the glory of your goodness. We pray, O Lord that you would take barriers and boundaries we’ve created in our own hearts and brought into this place and break them down. Lord, break them down so that we may be able to see you with open eyes, listen with open ears, and learn with open hearts so that we may be built up through the power of your Spirit. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us as we listen to your holy word. Amen.
It was a great week of worship! I was so grateful for my time gathering around the table with them. We allowed the Spirit to stretch us, renew us, and rest in us. When we engage the Spirit in a real way, the Spirit breaks boundaries. Throughout the week, we talked about the power of the Holy Spirit:
And the Spirit does speak to us…through the wind, through light, through butterflies. We must simply pay attention. When we do those things, the Spirit moves in us and uses us for the purpose of God’s will, and God’s reign, God’s realm is realized on Earth. Isaiah speaks of the Spirit that offers us hope and reconciliation.
This, friends, is what we need to take to the world. We are so blessed to be in this place, and a part of this community. But let’s be real. When we walk out these doors, we face a broken world. We face broken people, and we are broken ourselves. If we are being really honest, we face a broken church. In the world and in the church, there are battles being fought. People feel alienated like they don’t belong, or even worse, that there is simply no room for them.
We know that is not true. We know God welcomes us all into relationship. As the church and as the family of God, we know there is room for each of us for all believers. A pastor friend of mine recently said, “We gather together all in desperate need of receiving reconciliation and offering reconciliation to the others at the table. And when we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are proclaiming salvific love and grace of the Lord’s death to all-to those in the church and those not in the church, to those we agree with and those we do not, to those we line up with theologically and those who don’t.”
She spoke such truth. The table around which we gather is big enough. There is room enough for us all, and we have to make sure everyone knows that. So let us gather around this Large Table and soak in and receive the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the boundary breaking power of the Holy Spirit.
Benediction: As we go from this place, may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen.