This last Sunday was an exciting day in a lot of ways. I woke up early before the house full of children and visitors could stir. I opened up my bible and read out of both Matthew (on which I would be preaching later in the day) and after my first cup of coffee, switched to the book of Psalms. I prayed and sat in the quiet house waiting for life to begin.
At 7:00am I headed to the Spartan Gym where Bethany North meets and dropped off supplies for that day’s service and touched base with our key volunteers. From there I headed down to the Greenlake campus to pray with the other pastors and prepare for the 9am service. I preached on Matthew 5 (The Beatitudes) and right after the service headed back up to Bethany North to catch the end of that worship service. At the conclusion of Bethany North’s worship service I hung out with people from the church and ran back home to grab the family.
Our family cruised down to the Bethany North baptism and barbeque at the Richmond Beach Saltwater Park. I expected 20 or 30 or 40 people but was shocked to see over 100 people gathered together for lunch. People talked and laughed and ate and connected. After an hour, we gathered by Puget Sound and discussed baptism and prayed for my friend Chad. We discussed the gift of God’s grace and how baptism was God’s gift of washing over us and making us clean. And then I baptized Chad in the Holy Spirit. As he came up from the frigid Puget Sound waters, Chad was marked as a new creation in Christ. His wife cried. Chad couldn’t speak. And I almost lost it too. It was beautiful.
After another hour of hanging out in the sun we headed home for some cul-de-sac playtime with the kids of wiffleball and trampoline time with all the kids. At 5pm we were back to Greenlake to preach at the 6pm service and Heather and I left the kids home with the grandparents (in town for a trip to Sund’s Lodge) and we got to sing together and take communion together. It was fantastic.
And the next morning we were on a floatplane back to the place where I work in the summer at a fishing lodge in British Columbia. As the staff of 13 prepared for the incoming guests this week, we had a visitor from a gray whale who swam right next to our dock. We were literally standing on boats tied to the dock looking down at a 45 foot long whale swimming by. The contrast of the silent, majestic beauty of a whale and my day full of speaking about God on Sunday hit me like a hammer. As much as we speak about God, we should also fill our lives with letting people see God at work in the world with their own eyes. For all my words fall awkward and limp in the presence of God’s active work in nature.
I love the visual of John the Baptist in Matthew 11, John has gone from baptizing the Son of God earlier in the book of Matthew to now being imprisoned. And his current situation of frustration and fear has him asking the question, “Jesus are you still the One?” The connotation here is clear…if you were really the Son of God I don’t think I should be in jail right now. Its like he’s saying, “Are you really the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world?” like he had preached earlier in the book. Jesus’ answer? He answers in the affirmative of what He was doing in the world. Jesus says back to John’s disciples,
“Tell John that :
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”
Jesus shows here that we are most blessed when we see what Jesus is actually doing here in the world. Experiencing God in nature is often as illuminating (sometimes more!) to what God is doing here on earth than sitting through a sermon. Our faith is most transformative when it is experienced. Witness them both, God says, and watch me work in the world. Experiencing the power of God’s work in the natural world added almost a 3-D experience to preaching and baptizing on Sunday. God is at work in the world, through a whale’s breath and baptizing people who are journeying closer to Him. “Follow me, watch for what I’m doing, and be transformed as you move closer to My heart.” This is a word from the God of the universe on this day.
Want to see what I saw? Here you go…(but you really had to be there).