E-pistle March 20

Surprising Blessings
Thursday evenings are one of my favorite times of the week.  I love the entire FAITHActs! program from the great fellowship around the dinner table to the after-dinner studies and group times. 
Last evening was no exception. Well, actually, it was. It was an exceptional evening. The table fellowship could not have been better, so thanks to those who shared the meal with Becky and me.  You were great company!

The post-supper program time found many of us in the Chapel as we continued our study of the book of James.  We began by sharing prayer requests – joys, concerns or sorrows we’d ask others to help us bear.  The requests were open and honest, a reflection of the kind of trust and confidence with one another that Christ calls us to in his Body. 
The last request, just in the asking, was an exceptional blessing.  Because it is not my story to tell, I will not mention names.  But one of our class members asked that we pray for a friend of many years who had, just yesterday, made the final step into faith, a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Our class member is a humble person, well befitting a portion of last night’s study text.
Later on I asked our member if he had been the mid-wife at this new birth and, again, with humility, he acknowledged that God had allowed him to play a role in his friends’ coming to faith.  In fact, long years of conversation and consistent witness had been used by God to bring that perfect time when faith was quickened by the Holy Spirit.  And by the Spirit’s leading, our member knew that the time had come to say, “Friend, it’s time to make a decision.” 
Once more, the details of the story are not mine to tell and even in this short telling there may be something not exactly right.  But the point is not diminished.  Has he has since the Day of Pentecost, God continues to use his people to build his Kingdom one life at a time.  It may be with a child in a Guatemalan refugee camp, a young adult in a Brazilian favela, a recovering addict at the Whosoever Gospel Mission in Philadelphia with its rusty old sign that still proclaims “Jesus Never Fails,” or it may be in the life of a middle-aged professional whose heart had remained restless until it found its rest in Christ. 
Perhaps the story of God using an LPC member to bring a friend to faith should not be so exceptional.  I know that I was exceptionally blessed in the hearing of the story.
As the class continued we were talking about God’s love for us as whole people and orthodoxy’s bold insistence that rejects as heresy any notion that would divide our lives into body and soul with God’s love directed only at our souls.  God loves us as whole people and, mysteriously, redemption is for the whole person.  Body and soul he loves us.  The conversation brought to my mind the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, a gift to the church that we have used more than infrequently in worship. 
I posed Heidelberg’s first question to the class hoping for a response.  “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” I asked.  After just a brief moment of hesitation and with none other to provide the answer, one of our great LPC saints spoke up.  Unlike some of us, she does not speak frequently; she’s one of those wonderful “quick to listen, slow to speak” people we had learned about in the first chapter of James.  But with sure confidence and without a single stumble or word missed, she recited the answer exactly as she had memorized it in some confirmation class in the Reformed Church of her childhood:  

That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.   

I don’t think that mine were the only eyes that may have misted just a little in the recitation of the words of the catechism.  And I thought about the amazing gift her parents had given her in fulfilling their baptismal vows and being certain that words such as these where firmly planted in her heart and mind as she went out into the world.  What a library of assurance she has had at the ready as she has faced all the things that life always brings. 
It was an exceptional moment in last evening’s class.