by Christopher Zurcher
On attending the church service at Church of the Redeemer, Aug. 12, 2012.
What a powerful service. I began to become aware of today’s theme during the children’s message by Courtney Mason – anger and forgiveness and, of course, love. The message followed “Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer,” a hymn ultimately, I think, about God delivering or “guiding” his people to safety through the desert, or “barren land,” regardless of their sins, regardless of how they felt after having been led across the desert.
Now this country is in its own deserts, particularly, for this rant, the mineral-rich Afghanistan.
The message, delivered eloquently by Courtney, was about anger and how it is human to have it, but ungodly to have too much of it.
Following, eventually, was Interim Pastor the Rev. Kevin Ewing’s message, echoing, again, the “too much anger” message. Ephesians 4:25-5:2:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
The hymn of preparation was #503, “O Savior, Let me walk with thee,” a poem written by Washington Gladden for a devotional column published in his magazine “Sunday Afternoon” in 1879. Gladden was an outspoken minister and writer on social-justice issues, who served churches in New York, Massachusetts and Ohio. He never intended for the poem to be converted into a hymn. But what a fitting hymn and even more fitting a writer to have written the preparation hymn for Kevin’s sermon that followed.
I wish church services had titles that hinted toward their themes. I guess during times of Lent and Easter and Christmas, they inevitably have themes. Today’s theme emerged slowly, gracefully, powerfully.
A grandmother happened to come in after the service began and sat in front of me. She had prayer requests for Ron Paul and for her grandson, who just received a college scholarship. Her requests made the message more poignant than it would have been for a number of reasons.