Sunday, 23 November 2008

A simple testimony

Something different about the church I attend is that we don't have a preacher, per se. Not in the same way as other Christian churches, who have one (or a couple) designated persons who preach the Sunday sermon each week. Instead, all the members of the congregation take turns teaching each other, with 2 or 3 speakers sharing the sermon time.

Yes, this means that everyone will likely speak at least once during the year. The topic is assigned by our Bishop (at the head of the congregation), and usually you have 10-20 minutes to fill. So although not everyone is a powerful orator, and each speaker is at a different point in their spiritual journey, we realize that we can all learn from each other. Even the teens take a turn (although they usually only speak for 5-10 minutes).

Yes, it can be very scary. Standing up in front of 150 people to speak about such a personal subject can be daunting. But the experience is also humbling and revealing. And the person who inevitably gets the most out of the sermon that day!

Some weeks I struggle to stay focused, as someone reads monotonously from a novel of typed pages. Other weeks we are in stitches as a father shares stories he learned as a dad. Some Sundays are deep in doctrine as someone who has made a career of studying the scriptures shares what he knows. Some Sundays are profound in their simplicity. Today at church we had a beautiful example of simplicity.

An elderly woman sat poised her chair in the front of the chapel. Her smile was there, but there were slight trembles at the corners. She surveyed us all as the meeting was opened in song and prayer. When it came to her time, she slowly rose and made her way to the podium. Her trembling hands placed sheets of paper in front of her and she looked out upon her audience. "This is my first talk in front of you all," she confessed in halting English, layered thickly in a Polish accent. She then began to deliver the words she had prepared on the most simple subject taught by our Lord: charity. The concepts she spoke of were not complex, and the scriptures she quoted were short. A minute in, her eyes began to tear as her trembling voice tried desperately to get through. "I'm so scared, I have such stage fright" she interjected, then continued. Her fingers reached for a tissue. And yet she persevered. When all her reserves of courage finally gave out, she stopped mid-thought and pronounced "I think that is all, now." She quietly made her way back to her seat. Even though the ordeal was over, I think it was likely her heart still pounded in her ears.

I was taught much today. God's message is one of beautiful simplicity. Charity: the pure love of Christ. All the rest is ornamental; it is this one virtue for which I must strive, for without it I am nothing.

I also remembered that I must rise to the occasion to which I am called by God. I pray not for a task equal to my ability, but an ability equal to my task.

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