Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Extraordinary Times...

I was fortunate enough to go to school for a semester in Florence, Italy. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Everything about those four months was amazing - but just being in Florence was one of the most magnificent. Absolute, bonafide treasures of the world around every corner. It was truly amazing. After our first tour of the city my neck was sore because I was always looking up or around at the next cathedral, monument, statue, etc. Everywhere you looked was something else extraordinary.

At least for a while.

At some undefined point, the extraordinary becomes the everyday. I distinctly remember walking to meet up with some friends at one point toward the middle of our stay. I jumped off the bus, rushed past the Santa Maria Novella, sped past San Lorenzo, hurried through the crowds at piazza San Giovanni between the Baptistery and the Duomo and as I was walking the road between the Duomo and the Uffizi, I all of a sudden just stopped. These wonders that had kept me in awe just weeks ago, I was now just rushing past - because I saw them everyday. At some point it time, Brunelleschi's Duomo became just the duomo. I changed my plans that day and went back to appreciate some of my favorite spots in Florence by myself because I knew that I wasn't going to have the chance for very much longer. Over the next few weeks, the extraordinary in Florence would again become the everyday to me - but on occasion, I would stop to appreciate it, even if for only a moment.

It's amazing to me how the extraordinary can be come the everyday. I've been thinking about that a lot this week because of what happened Sunday during morning church service. There are a handful of extraordinary church worship experiences that I will never forget. I remember on that semester in Europe, sitting in a church in Athens, Greece where the service was being conducted in Greek, translated into English, and in the back of the room there were two small groupings of people where the service was being re-translated into two other languages. That day I was struck by how universal God's body truly is. I think about that moment often on Sunday's, and how all around the world on the same day, but in a variety languages and in various formats, God's body comes together, and how much bigger it is than I can imagine. Sunday, I was blessed with another of those unforgettable corporate worship moments. We had a man come forward after the lesson to be baptized. He is in Houston being treated at a local hospital, and he has been meeting with our minister and studying for a time, and had decided to put on Christ in baptism. Our preacher was telling us how they've been studying, but the man doesn't speak English and our minister doesn't speak Spanish - so they've been using translators. And we used a translator to take the confession and for the baptism itself - and I was blown away by how God doesn't care about our barriers, languages or borders or class or anything else we try to use to segment ourselves. His gospel is a whole lot bigger than that. It was an extraordinary moment and I was left in tears.

But...there's always a but, huh? But, in class after the service, I started thinking about what a great experience that was, and remembering some of the more special church services I've been blessed with and it hit me - shouldn't every Sunday be that special? Shouldn't every Lord's Day be extraordinary? I mean, come on, I am gathering with the body of Christ, opening my heart up before the throne of God, literally partaking of the body and blood of my Savior, reveling in his Word, singing praises to His name - and it's routine? Doesn't it seem like every time should be extraordinary - but somewhere along the way (at least for me) it becomes everyday.

God's gifts of salvation and the church body are remarkably wonderful, and I hope that I will live everyday life with more appreciation of how extraordinary He really makes it.

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