Sunday, October 28, 2007

What's Important; What's Not

I sit here in the inter-service break, reflecting on the early service and planning toward the late. The early service was, by human analysis, a train wreck:

  1. My immediately-past Chairman of Deacons went unexpectedly into the hospital in McKinney, so I rushed over to check on him early this morning.
  2. I arrived back five minutes late for the early worship service, which was already in progress (thanks, John).
  3. The guy I went to see in the hospital is one of the choir's key tenors. Unforeseen circumstances also took out at the last minute the leader of our orchestra and our key sopranos. The combined toll eliminated two choral elements from the order of service.
  4. We're observing the Lord's Supper today, so the order of service matters more than it usually does—more people trying to figure out when to do what they're supposed to do. We wound up a song ahead of schedule while serving the Lord's Supper.
  5. I must admit, I was distracted the whole time.

Yet, as I initiated our observance of the Supper by reading I Corinthians 15:1-8, it occurred to me that the circumstances of the Last Supper were not pristine themselves. It took place in the midst of turmoil. Jesus' experience in the Garden just afterwards revealed the anguish He was feeling. The disciples were confused, having been confronted first with Jesus' act of service in washing their feet, then all the talk of betrayal, and now a discussion of broken body and shed blood during the Supper. Their circumstances that night…perhaps not that different from ours.

But 1 Corinthians 15 does the job for us of sorting out what is "of first importance" and (by implication) what is not. Together our congregation proclaimed the good news that Jesus has died and is risen, atoning for our past and demonstrating our future.

Life is messy. People get sick and go to hospitals. Tragedy strikes. Worship is, ultimately, not about leaving the mess "outside" while we think about God; it is about proclaiming the victory of God over the mess. In the midst of it all, it was a neat experience for me to come to that point in the service where I told myself, "These earthly concerns are not important. They fall vanquished by the gospel—all of them. That's what is important."


Bob Cleveland said...

It's nice when what's important to God becomes the important thing to us, too. I suspect that became more real this morning.

Bro. Robin said...

Thanks Bart

May I never forget that Christ has already won the victory over the mess.

selahV said...

Bro. Bart: in the furnace, in the den, in the storms, in every situation--He is God. Amen! selahV

Tim Guthrie said...

Thank you for sharing this - I needed it today after my wife endured a real tough situation with her sister and her family.

Your struggles today helped me tonight to put some things into their proper perspective.

God Bless!

Mary Ann A. said...


I'm the visitor from Alabama who spoke to you after the service. I didn't notice that you were late; I was even later, got off at the wrong exit and tried to find my way on the back roads. When I realized I was going to be late, I almost changed my mind and turned back. But I was pretty sure God was telling me to forget my embarrassment over walking in late and try to find the church. My car died for no reason in downtown Farmersville. My heart sank. Where do I get help for a stalled car in a small town on Sunday morning? I tried it again, and it started. I found the church, parked, and my ten-year-old high-milage car died again in the parking place before I could turn off the engine. I walked in, late, flustered, and desperately trying (not too successfully) to concentrate on worship and not the car.
Perhaps it was because I was a visitor, but I didn't notice anything amiss and saw no signs of your distraction. Instead, God calmed me and ministered to me. The worship at Farmersville was a blessing! I appreciated your message. The music selections were special and poignant.
I did not know whether it was OK to participate in the Lord's Supper at a church other than my local Southern Baptist church. I do not know what the practice is at your church. (I guess I've read too much about open vs. closed communion on the blogs.) I did decide to participate, and I'm glad I did. I really needed to remember Jesus blood and sacrifice on that particular morning. It was my birthday and I can think of no better way of celebrating one's birthday than by starting the day remembering what Jesus did at the cross.
I was actually able to forget about my car. By the way, it started with no problem and has worked perfectly since.
Blessings on you, your family, and your lovely congregation!

Mary Ann

Luke said...

I like the part that you brought out about we worship in the midst of a messy world. I think at times that we have so sterilized our services that we have forgotten that Jesus came to save imperfect humans and not perfect saints. I think it says alot about how you handled yourself in light of Mary Ann's words about the service. May God continue to bring blessings from "the train wreck".

Matthew Aston said...

I enjoyed reading your post about the service last Sunday. I have often wondered why we, as believers, feel like the worship service has to run absolutely smooth. Yes, the church is an institution from God, but it he appointed it to fallen people in a fallen world. Messes are going to happen. In one of his sermons on Ecclesiastes, Tommy Nelson proposed the question... "Why do dogs have ticks? Simply to remind them that they are dogs!" Ha! The messes remind me that I need Him in control. Always a good reminder.

John Killian said...

Great post! Thank you for your good word and your faithful ministry.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments. I'm glad to know that my sentiments were constructive.

Thanks especially to Matthew for stopping by (a member of my church gone off to college). Come visit sometime.

Luke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.