It happens every so often to me. It happened again this past Sunday. Let me tell you about it............I was preparing for worship, which these days consists of looking through the worship folder to see who needed to be remembered prayer, what was happening in the congregation in the upcoming week, and marking where the hymns are in the worship book so that I wouldn't take half the verses finding the song.
In the front of our worship space is a small table filled with votive candles where people go to offer a prayer and light a candle. As a life-long Lutheran, this practice is not familiar to me as a part of my heritage. My church home now is Lutheran, this is most certainly true, but it was started by Swedish Lutherans who probably appreciated any bit of extra heat and light (especially this time of year).
I was struck by the gathering around that table of small candles on the First Sunday of Advent. Joyce and her grandson each lit a candle and paused for a moment of prayer. Joyce and Roger bring their grandson to worship often -- they are his spiritual mentors it appears. I know nothing of their family situation other than there is a generation skipped when it comes to them worshiping together.
Heather wheeled up in her motorized chair -- a young, pretty woman whose body has been ravaged by a debilitating disease, I'm guessing MS. She is a faithful member of this community and gets herself to church most Sundays. Heather had to stretch to reach the tapers and stretch to reach an unlit votive. I'm guessing most of life is a stretch for her -- it took a moment, but she lit a candle and offered her prayer.
Another woman was there also, a single Mom whose sexual orientation is same sex. She too lit a candle and offered a prayer.
I was struck by the beauty of the tableau. Our congregation prides itself on being multi-cultural and diverse. We see it most Sundays when the pews are filled with all sorts of different folks who come together because they are simply people of faith. The tableau confirmed for me that the faith that draws us and unites us is not simply some sort of ethereal "feeling", but it is trust in something that is real. The thing that is real is God's vision for life on this earth. It's not my vision.......though I claim it sometimes. It is the dream of God about how people are meant to relate to God and to each other. It gets played out in life too rarely it seems, alas, even among faith communities.
But when it happens, it is something to behold!! A vision of the reign of God among people -- plain people who live real lives. Real lives that have been touched by the hand of a Gracious God who loves and redeems them all.