God at a Picnic
I learned a lesson today. I thought this was a lesson that I already understood, but I've learned it afresh today.
We had our church picnic today. The committee that I chair coordinates this effort, so I've been involved in its planning for a couple of months. The committee made a few changes this year -- mustard seed faith changes. We moved from a physically closer, air conditioned facility to our district camp -- farther away and outside. We moved the regular 11:00 service to the camp as well -- something new for us -- worship off site.
A few weeks ago, Steve and I drove out to check out the site -- it had been a while since I had seen it. I have to say, I was not optimistic. The chapel where we were planning to have worship was small and unfinished -- only subflooring on the floor and wallboard but not paint on the sloping ceiling. The picnic shelter seemed drab and dreary. I thought my sometimes picky congregation would find it small, cramped and primitive. I wondered if they would even make the effort to come.
Once the people began to arrive, a strange thing happened. God arrived with them.
Picnic volunteers came. Committee members jumped in and completed the set up with ease and pleasure. The United Methodist Men, who took on the responsibility for the food, began grilling.
The chapel began to fill with people -- to capacity -- almost standing room only. This "church" that had left its building behind, began to sing -- they sang, they stood up, the waved their arms around, they laughed. They were joyful, and it was an amazing thing to see. The floor didn't matter; the ceiling wasn't important -- God was in the house.
The picnic itself was great, but it was the people who made it that way. The men's food was terrific, the games were fun, and this family laughed together. In the past our picnics had been more like dinners -- this was a family event -- a REAL picnic. Our church family interacted -- they had fun with each other -- water balloons and all. It wasn't dreary, it wasn't rickety -- it was church.
Soon I wasn't seeing anything that I had noticed before. I was enjoying the fields and trees -- creation singing God's praises. My preconceived notions had been wrong. This WAS the right location for this event. Our church WAS a church today, and it was wonderful.
I learned again today that the church isn't the facility -- it is not the building -- it isn't even the picnic shelter, and it doesn't matter if worship is held in a cathedral or a "cow palace" -- if God is there, and if his people show up, church happens.
I saw God at a picnic today, and He was laughing.
Images: First, hands at the worship service -- doing hand motions to Lord, I Lift Your Name on High. Secondly, some of the scenery at Asbury Woods.