Same God-Same Love-Same Jesus

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 3

You could feel the strumming of the bass guitar reverberating through the exterior walls of the old, white clapboard church building even before we opened the doors for worship. We were in Appalachia assisting local Christian leaders in holding a VBS for their community. We had just finished VBS and were attending worship with a local church family before heading home. Even my ear drums hurt after worship was over that day, but they talked about and loved Jesus and welcomed us like brothers and sisters in Christ. 

The stillness of the dark room embraced us as we walked into the lounge for worship that night. There was a hushed silence all around as a single spotlight shone on a young lady on the stage who was about to lead the message that night. She showed us a clay pot she had made with obvious care. She carefully placed the clay pot on a table covered it with a blanket and smashed it with a hammer. She talked about sin and brokenness and then forgiveness and healing found in Jesus. As she talked about Jesus, she pulled the blanket open and there was the clay pot, whole and unbroken. 

It was a familiar Lutheran liturgical worship on a Sunday morning. “The peace of the Lord be with you…and also with you,” was spoken and responded to. The pastor walked up into the pulpit and gave a sermon on Law and Gospel, on sin and forgiveness; all about Jesus. Later we offered the Peace to each other and came to the communion rail and shared in Holy Communion together before leaving with the words of the Benediction. 

The echoes of the faithful’s footsteps resounded from the Cathedral’s walls and rose to the murals of heaven and angels adorning the domed ceiling that seemed to rise to the clouds. You felt small in a place like that surrounded by so much grandeur and adornments all around. That was the whole point, not necessarily your smallness, but the bigness of God. How wide and how deep and how amazing the reality of who God is and the love that God has given in Jesus. 

It was in the first century and Christians in the region were being violently persecuted and put to death for their faith. They didn’t dare worship publicly knowing that men, women, and children were all being martyred without mercy simply for being Christian. Many choose to worship in small groups using code words and symbols to let others know where to go. Often worship would be held in catacombs among the bones with a few candles for light, copies of scrolls written by John or Matthew, then readings from Paul or Peter and from the Torah and the Psalms. Bread and wine would be brought in to share in the Eucharist and then they would leave in small groups to avoid notice. 

Modern day China, missionaries with a popular Christian singer share in worship with a small group of Jesus followers. It’s around midnight and they are huddled together in an abandoned warehouse with an old wooden crate for an altar, a single candle, and a worn copy of the New Testament. Hymns like Amazing Grace are sung in hushed whispers as the local pastor blesses his congregation in the name of Jesus. 

A warm and caring church family in the small town of North Jackson, OH come together on a Sunday morning for worship. Worship doesn’t quite look like it used to, but as one of her members reminded the pastor, “that’s okay, it’s still Jesus.” They gather in wooden pews in a church building generously built by many members of their families and even their own hands. Their pastor walks among them when delivering the meditation that day and you can feel the warmth of community and fellowship among them as they receive Jesus once again and respond in prayer and praise and love for each other. 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is the same story, though the people and the places, the ways and the means don’t look the same. The redemption story that begins with the love of our Heavenly Father and comes full circle back to the love of our Heavenly Father and how that love is shown and given in Jesus Christ. From His Advent to Christmas, from Epiphany to Lent and Easter, from Pentecost and the end of the Church Year, the end of creation, the renewal of creation, to Advent and Christmas, God’s story without end. 

In Jesus it is our story of Christ born in us in faith and baptism, of Jesus being revealed in our lives, to understanding the very depths of our sin and how great the sacrifice was that was made for us upon that cross, to dying to sin and being raised with Jesus on Easter morning, to living the life of the Christian till the day comes when our hope is fulfilled, and we are renewed to live eternally with Jesus and all the saints in the New Heavens and the New Earth. 

Same story, same love, same Jesus. Whatever else may change, that never does. 

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev 7:9-11)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Published by philipmcclelland.org

​I am a recovering burned out workaholic​ who forgot I couldn't change the world. From the ashes of that not only have I found a peace from God that I never knew but a focus on what matters, God, family and loving my neighbor as God has loved me. My burning out experiences really drive my writing and how much I want to share all of the good God has worked through the hurt I've experienced. Currently I serve a great little parish in Northern Ohio with my wonderful family and our furry farm of five dogs, four cats and the oddball handful of fish. You can find me at www.philipmcclelland.org.

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