Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God Loves People

John 3:16-17 (King James Version)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

God loves us.
You knew that, right? Me too. So why is it so easy to start thinking and acting like God is condemnation, or God is anger, or God is snobbish?

Last weekend we went to one of our favorite "Rendezvous" sites. (That's "rondy voo" as in fur-trade era playing), not a romantic tryst. I've posted about this site before. This is the third time we've been to this one, which is mostly a smallish group (20 lodges or so) of friends and friendly acquaintances. It is the place where I was asked to do something I never expected, the place where I baptized someone I normally wouldn't have, where I met The Mandolin Man, and where I took pictures of musicians in the twilight.

Each year we've been there we have been aware of God's presence in some way, particularly on Sunday in the little church service. This year was no exception. Something had subtly changed in attitudes towards us, not that they were bad before, but this time people were more relaxed. They remembered our names, talked about previous rendezvous there, admired little Trinity (who was with us without Mommy and Daddy and did fine). They also graciously welcomed Kevin, Ken's brother, like a long-lost friend.

This rendezvous was quite enjoyable partly because there were a number of really good musicians. The man who plays the washtub bass like a pro was there again, an old man who literally made music with a pair of spoons, another interesting guy who used a washboard for percussion (Zydeco style), a fiddler, and a couple of guitarists. Ever since the baptism experience, we are asked to have a worship service on Sunday. It's always interesting. This year several of the musicians agreed to play for Sunday worship.

They were a motley crew, I tell you! I wish I had a picture. (I would have except I forgot to put the memory card back the last time I used the camera.) Picture all of the people dressed in 18th Century garb.

The bass player plucked his one string, with facial expressions and body language that eloquently said, "I love making this music." He is extraordinary, and I can hardly believe the music he makes with a washtub, broom handle and one string. It makes me smile just to watch and listen to someone enjoy themselves so much in such a simple way.

The man with the spoons had a long, grizzled beard and his hard life showed in the deep wrinkles of his face. The one with the washboard was white-haired and smiling and wore red suspenders to match his voyageur-style red striped long socks.. The guy with the guitar, who loves Dylan songs, was younger.

They played and sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "I'll Fly Away," and "Keep on the Sunny Side." It might seem funny to think of singing those songs at a worship service, but they were very sincere. As they played Trinity smiled and clapped her little hands and bounced on her wooden camp chair. Others sang, smiled, or just nodded in time. Kevin sang from his wheelchair next to Trinity, wearing his late father's Stetson hat that he had flattened out "mountain man" style. A beautiful little girl with long blond hair sang and smiled in the front row, her boot tips peeking out from beneath the hem of her long skirt.

Something happened. I became intensely aware of God's love. Pure, unalloyed, constant--God loved the spoon player with the deep wrinkles who had probably imbibed too much the night before. God loved to see the washboard bass player having so much joy in his music. God loved the beautiful little blond girl, the cute black children who were dressed in fringed buckskin, the grandparents of the little boy who'd been baptized a couple of years ago. God loved the circle of simple worship. And God loved the ones who, in spite of our efforts and our friendly invitation, did not attend but stayed away, as they have each year, for reasons only they knew.

I wanted the simple moment, the simple and sentimental music, the blue sky and sunshine to go on and on. Truly, my spirit seemed to swell with a deep awareness of the boundless love of our Creator God to his fallible and fickle creation, humankind.

A chance jest from the organizer of the rendezvous, "No need to pray for _________, he's going to Hell no matter what" had turned into a sermon idea. I ended up talking about John 3:16-17. Several of the church attenders probably had little to no understanding of God's "good news." So I kept it very simple. I spoke of God's love and how so many of us think God is eager to condemn us--when the opposite is true.

Afterwards, the grandmother of the baptized boy (I don't know how else to identify him) came up to me and softly said, "Thank you so much" as she hugged me hard. I'm not sure what she was thanking me for, but I knew the Holy Spirit was with us in that moment. Her little grandson, now almost four, appears to be autistic and to have other problems.

Her husband, who tends to be bombastic, hugged me as well and joked, "That is the first time I ever hugged a lady preacher. I used to be scared of you. Maybe some of the holy will wear off on me." Another man quietly said, as he shook my hand, "Thanks for helping me think about God in a different way." Another said, "I liked your sermon. The only time I go to church is here or at other rendezvous. Don't misunderstand, I am a Christian man. I just don't like church. Thanks for making us feel welcome.."

Thank you, God for people. Thank you, God for being love--so amazing, so holy, so beyond finding out. And thank you, God, for the chance to share a simple sermon and to be reminded that you did, indeed, call me to preach the word. Send someone to water the seeds planted, to love, to smile, to be you in this world. Have your way in the hearts and life of each person who was with us last weekend. Continue the good things you have begun, I pray, for the sake of the Kingdom. Amen


Anonymous said...

Thank you Lord for Dorcus. For the love you were able to pour through her to these you love so much. Thank you for her sense of your Spirit and willingness just to be in you. Thank you too, Lord, for her sharing with us.

Unknown said...

Well mom, next year I'll have the camera.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it was a "thin place" experience. I wish I could have heard the music.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

It seems that way each time we go, in a different way. I am always wondering just what it is about that particular group of people that gets God's attention. One year (the year of the infant baptism...heh heh) people were weeping softly before we got through the first stanza of Amazing Grace. Every year, something.

You would have enjoyed the music for sure, Kievas!