We had a hurricane down here recently. Maybe you heard.
Even as I write this, many Floridians are still reeling from the loss. (If you haven’t yet taken that much-anticipated vacation to Key West, you may have missed your chance.) Depending on what part of the state you’re from, Irma’s impact ranged from devastating to merely annoying. For the most part, up here in the middle it was mostly just annoying; with that annoyment mostly due to power outages; with those power outages mostly due to tree limbs being ripped off and hurled into power lines by 100 mph winds.
I’m sure there is a perfectly logical reason (or not) why so many humongous, spreading, live oak trees—of which Florida is rife—tend to grow intertwined with power lines. Did we not think this through? Often you’ll see where the power company has come and cut the middle out of a tall oak tree so that it looks like a big ol’ “Y” with a power line running through it. In addition to looking like something out of Dr. Seuss’s Whoville, it’s just a power outage waiting for a brisk breeze.
During Irma’s visit, I was without power just long enough for my frozen mango chunks in the freezer to melt and then refreeze into a big wad of sweet tropical tanginess that I now have to hack apart to use. (I’ll get by.) But some folks are still without power. And while some of y’all a couple states away are having sweater weather, it’s been in the 90’s down here this past week—with no AC for many.
Interestingly (to me, at least), power outages in the area have been kind of spotty. I don’t even pretend to understand the mysteries of the power grid, but it seems odd that one block in a neighborhood can be totally dead while one block over, folks are lighting up the night.
Even more odd was the power situation at my church.
My church is one of the oldest churches in the city. Since it kept outgrowing every building that was built (and after resorting to holding services in the civic center), the membership bought an empty mall in 1999 and transformed it into a church complex. It’s quite amazing. (Take a peak.) The wide mall promenade handles the congestion between services beautifully, the former Sam’s Club has been gutted and reimagined as the worship center, and there is plenty of parking.
During Irmageddon (I wish I had made that name up), the whole campus lost power. Sunday services were cancelled, all mid-week services and events had to be cancelled, we couldn’t host our Tuesday/Thursday Breaking Bread Café where we provide meals for those locals in need—in short, the church was powerless.
As this past Sunday got closer with not a watt of electricity flowing at the mall, our pastor and our technical director began to frantically brainstorm ways to hold services. If you’re someone who would consider having no electricity a good excuse to miss church, just know that I’m not of that same mind—and neither were the throngs of church members who showed up Sunday morning at 9:30 in our large “Now Center” (formerly a Montgomery Ward store) to attend an all-church worship service. For you see, on Friday, the church’s facilities manager called the pastor to tell him, “We got power.” Power was suddenly available in one place in the entire mall: the Now Center…
…The one place other than the worship center large enough to hold everyone…
…The one place that already had a stage and a sound system and screens to project the lyrics of the hymns and songs our Family Connect pastor led us in singing while he played his guitar…
…The one place that already had plenty of chairs stacked up ready to be set out in rows to hold the worshippers who filled those 1355 chairs that morning (except for three or four seats on the front row—what can I say; we’re Baptists)…
…The one place on the entire church campus with power.
Psalm 122:1 and a favorite old hymn both say:
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” KJV
So all 1300+ of us did just that, gladly: we went into the Now Center of the Lord. There was no picking which service you wanted to go to because you like the music better; no coming in late and just watching the service onscreen in the overflow chapel; no sitting in the same spot you always sit, near the same people you always sit near; no settling into a comfortably upholstered theater-style seat. It was a shoulder-to-shoulder fellowship of believers on folding chairs.
We gathered as the body of Christ, all because of power. And—pardon the pun—it was a powerful experience. But (in case my analogy isn’t obvious) it wasn’t just because of electrical power: if we individually and corporately are in a right relationship with the Father, there should be all manner of power flowing through a church and THE Church. Unlike Spiderman or Captain America, God’s power is unlimited.
Paul spoke of Him as being…
…able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… Ephesians 3:20 NIV
And He is; and He did. Add all that together and Central Florida certainly felt its share of power this past week or so…
- Hurricane Irma had the power to destroy lives, destroy property, topple trees, and disrupt power.
- This past Sunday morning, the Now Center had the power to turn on the lights and the speakers and the microphones, which led to worship that happened in one accord, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, strengthened by the power of preaching the Word of God.
- The church at the mall/a.k.a. Church at the Mall/a.k.a. the Church—Capital “C”—at the mall had power to be the body of Christ, send members of that body on two mission trips this week to be the hands and feet of Jesus, serve people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and overcome darkness and comfort and preference to worship the One Who gave His all to give us life.
But exceeding the power of a storm of any category, exceeding the power of evil in any form, exceeding the power of The Church or of a church of any size is the power of Almighty God, in whom lies all power…
…Power to create previously non-existent life
…Power to transform lost and broken life
…Power to sustain that life for all eternity
And lest we forget who the source of that power ultimately is, Paul is quick to remind us:
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV
This past Sunday, that power was on display in a big way. God could have lit up the large and comfortable worship center; instead, He had us assemble together shoulder-to-shoulder on folding chairs in a room that was the perfect size to hold us… a room where, when we sang, we could hear each other… a room where, when we lifted our hands, we could see each other… and a room where, when one felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, we all felt the presence of the Holy Spirit—and “immeasurably more.”
Power and might are in your hand… 2 Chronicles 20:6 NIV
This past Sunday, we got power.
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:21 NIV