A surprise encounter with the holy at morning worship
By Kevin Butcher | November 28, 2016
A few years ago I was preaching in a church in Wisconsin about the love of God. At the end of the service, I asked a brother sitting a few rows back to join me in role-playing the beginning of Jewish Sabbath, where the father traditionally speaks a blessing over each of his children. I told the man—who looked to be in his forties, dressed in business casual, and built like an NFL linebacker—that he would play the role of my son, and for the moment, I would be his dad. He nodded his permission, so I knelt down in front of him, placed my hand around the back of his neck, came close to him, and began to speak a blessing.
I told him how blessed I was to be his father, how I remembered so well the moment of his birth, and how I wept because God had given me a precious little boy. I told him I was proud of him then, and so very proud of him now, not because of his accomplishments but simply because he was himself—and I just loved him. I told him I was glad he played football, but it didn’t really matter to me if he scored the winning touchdown or fumbled on the goal line—I was simply proud that he went out and tried. And I told him I loved that he was teachable. And that he loved his mother and sisters well. And that he was compassionate. I told him I knew that it was tough in the world and he wouldn’t always feel safe, but that no matter what, whether he was at the top of his game or struggling, I would always, always be there for him. All he needed to do was look over his shoulder, and—as long as God gave me breath—I would be there. And then I pulled this giant of a forty-five-year-old man close and kissed him on the cheek and whispered, “I love you, son. And I always will.”
As I was speaking, a peaceful stillness came over the eight hundred people gathered there. All that could be heard was the quiet shedding of tears as the brothers and sisters in the room allowed the father blessing to take them somewhere deep into their hearts. But what really moved me was the response of my “son.” During the entire blessing he sat with his huge arms crossed over his chest, not one muscle moving or even twitching, looking me right in the eye—as tears rolled down his face. After church, one of the leaders came to me and said, “I just talked to the gentleman who role-played with you, and he told me that this was the first time he has ever been to our church—and actually, due to some religious wounds, the first church he has been to in years. Then he told me something else. He said that what just happened was the most significant moment of his entire life.”
Were the words magic? Is it the power of suggestion that seems to so deeply impact others when we simply turn to them in love and give them what we have to offer in Jesus’s name? Or, could it be the fellowship of our loving God, the profound healing power of “good church” to cover a multitude of sins?
I can’t think of a single person in our community of believers who sticks around because of the “typical church” stuff that attracts and holds so many followers of Christ in our culture. They come and engage because they are empty and desperate to know the healing love of God in Jesus. They are tired of just hearing about it and faking their experience of it—they want to intimately know, deeply feel, and live the rest of their lives in that love.
How about you? Are you getting this? It’s impossible to read, sing, study, podcast, or educate our way into experiencing the love of Jesus. Human beings simply cannot heal without the shared koinonia of God. In order to heal from the deep wounding of the enemy in our soul, we must connect with other sons and daughters of God who are done playing the game and who want to engage in emotionally, spiritually raw, naked, and unashamed fellowship. The exchange of the deep, deep love of Jesus is the only commodity in the universe that can heal us all.
Adapted from Choose and Choose Again by J. Kevin Butcher © 2016. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.