The planning and preparation I put into that service was a little bit more than usual, for some reason, but I felt that that congregation, yesterday, needed a very strong message. I haven't a clue what has been happening there [one of the little problems with Methodist preaching is that you get sent to congregations you don't know that well] but I felt that there was a need to hear something strong about coming together in God's love, and about that being a Choice.
(image from goodsalt.com)
It tied in well with the reading from Acts 16 about Paul & Silas in prison in Philippi, and then the earthquake breaking their chains so that they were free, but they Chose not to leave.
I put the hymn "Bind us together" into the service, because it fitted in extremely well with the message. The congregration have the words projected onto the wall above the preacher's head, but I felt that I had to use the hymn book otherwise I would be turning my back on the congregation to read the words from the wall. I looked down into my hymn book for a minute to find the hymn, and when I looked up, they had all moved around the church in order to sing the hymn holding hands in a huge circle. I quickly stepped over to join in, and it was very moving. So much so, that after the sermon, I asked the organist to play another chorus of the hymn and we all held hands again. I sang that chorus with tears in my eyes.
I love Ann Voskamp's image of the people of Christ being his Body [nothing new in that] but not his estate - and I used that image yesterday, telling the people that we are the Body, held together with nerve and sinew, not kept apart by barbed wire fences, separated by ditches and dry stone walls. There is a need, I believe, in that church yesterday for some pulling together. I don't know why. But that was what I was called to preach.
And the most gracious blessing is that the congregation told me afterwards that I was right. "That was a message for me," said one woman; "I will remember that service for a long time," said another, and yet another said, "We needed that." It was the women who told me what they felt, the men were quieter, but I think that they felt something too. No one told me why, no one mentioned what had been happening there, or why that word was needed there yesterday, and I did not feel it right to ask. They were appreciative and welcoming of the Word. And that was enough.