The most authentic worship I’ve been apart of, probably since college, has taken place at our Recovery meetings on Thursday nights.
Maybe it’s the smaller group, intimate and so many open chairs.
Some of the authenticity probably springs from the group joining together in unity, repeating The Serenity Prayer as we close the evening. Each of us reads, longing to believe God’s faithfulness to His very broken people. There is power in speaking it aloud, every time.
But I think that the authenticity of Thursday nights is built on the premise that we all come so real, with so few expectations. Music and lyrics meld together to speak of our frailty. The shared stories are often simple, sometimes spoken with shaking voices. The whole evening reminds me of the story from Matthew 18.
Jesus storytells the following parable, believers and non-believers huddled, listening intently. I think each of the following translations points to His sincerity and conviction as He Speaks.
- “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (ESV).
- “Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers” (The Message).
- “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost? And if it turns out that he finds it, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be lost” (AMP).
Thursday night feels like it’s a collection of 1s, coming together, who are not part of the 99.
Sure, many of us don’t want to be the 1.
We crave the comfort that comes with the community of the 99.
Protection and love that comes with community is important. It is vital and life-giving and restorative.
But I ask you this, my sweet friends who love Jesus, who want His ways more than Your ways. Will you be heart-caught-in-your-throat brave?
Speak of your experiences that make you feel like the 1. Search His truth and speak of your stories that put you in the place of the 1. Bring the experience to the 99, that they might be challenged and strengthened.
We don’t want those desperately seeking healing pushed farther away from the throng of people who are huddled inside, looking inside. That circle spends too much time fearful of what they might see if they turn their backs.
These bodies were made for more. More vulnerability. More sacrifice. More truth-telling than we ever thought acceptable.
These bodies were made for cultivating strength. The strength exists for a purpose — that we might leave the 99 on the hill and pursue the exhausting and often hunger-filled march to walk with the 1 that we’ve been given an opportunity to find in the dark and love.
Thanks to contributors at #goaftertheone and @kathyescobar for her insights on the church of the 99 or the 1.