The Biblical language of salvation includes the notion of being “gathered in.” To be scattered or to be “far off” finds its resolve in language such as “being brought near.” God describes himself as the one who puts the lonely into families and who brings sinners home to himself.
As the Halloween pumpkins transition to Thanksgiving pie, and as we lean toward Christmas, I carry with me the fullness of recent events and meaningful experiences through my connections with the Church of Jesus Christ in Venice. My life moves toward the end of this year with increased richness of relationships and impressions of the love of God at work in broader and deeper ways.
Last week, I was privileged to attend the retirement party of Pastor Chuck Wiggins of Trinity Presbyterian Church. Several hundred church members and friends gathered into the church’s large fellowship hall to honor Pastor Chuck’s nearly 24 years of faithful labors in that congregation. His children and grandchildren surrounded him at the head table and we all bore witness to the love of Christ in that family and in the hearts of all those present.
A certain fullness of years, a true gladness of heart, adorned the evening as family and friends bade him farewell with thanksgiving to God for the years shared. Theirs was the joy of blessedness and the hope of God’s faithfulness for their future.
On Tuesday of this past week, my son Austin joined me as we attended the 17th annual fundraising banquet of Pregnancy Solutions. This is a ministry purposed to extend a loving hand to women who find themselves in the challenging circumstances of an unplanned pregnancy.
The staff and volunteers of Pregnancy Solutions convey love, support, hope and, yes, joy, as they rally behind each woman and often the father of the child in a season of great complexity and strain.
Of the many memorable moments of this year’s banquet, with somewhere near 600 total in attendance, one particularly gave rise to smiles and warmth of heart.
One of the clients of Pregnancy Solutions who chose to continue with her pregnancy was present at the banquet and shared her story of hope realized as she was surrounded by people who loved her and cared for her. The father of the newborn was also present and shared the stage with her indicating to all of us his purpose to stay in the story.
Austin and I were privileged to attend both the lunch banquet and the evening banquet. At the lunch banquet, the father was clearly moved by the mother’s heart of hope and gratitude. During the similar opportunity to share that evening, the mother asked the father if he had anything he wanted to say. Taking the microphone, he expressed the words, “well, not a whole lot, but …,” and he quickly turned his back to the audience, reached into his pocket, got down on his knee and with a ring in hand asked her if she would be his wife.
Another cause for much thankfulness has been the deepening relationships I’ve been enjoying with all the pastors involved in One Christ Won City Pastor Fellowship.
We “gather in” together for lunch and prayer each month. There’s much laughter, much prayer and a growing sense of unusual unity wrought by the Spirit of Christ.
This Christmas season, a number of us (somewhere around 10) are providing short, online Christmas devotionals running from Dec. 1 through Dec. 24. You can check this out by going to the One Christ Won City website, OneChristWonCity.com.
These devotionals are purposed to enable each of us to slow down and take in the wonder of God becoming man as we celebrate once again the birth of Jesus Christ.
Into our world, in which division, alienation, loneliness, hatred and despair are so commonly experienced, God has come and in the person of his son, Jesus Christ, and has borne our sin upon himself that we might be brought back home to our heavenly Father, where the lights are on, the love is deep, the family is gathered and life never ends.