May 18th, 2016 by Carl Buffington
As a family was walking out the front doors of the church at the close of Sunday’s service, one of the children said something like, “I never hear from God or see anything like others do.” Just then he looked up and saw what’s below and took a picture of it. His father came to get me and said, “Fr. Carl, you have to see this!” It was gone by the time I got outside. But then, it wasn’t for me.
How incredible is that, I thought! Like the woman at the conference in Colorado I had just shared about in my sermon: out of 1,500 plus people, God had a word just for her in a dialect she alone would know. Here He is again responding to one person who wants to hear from Him. The really neat thing to me is that this image is strangely similar to what several sensed that morning — a rushing over our heads, waves moving over us--some saw colors, others didn’t--but when I saw this on his phone all I could think of was, “That was His presence!” Maybe just a finger paint stroke across the heavens?
I want to share briefly about what we did Sunday and why we did it both for those who missed it and those who were there. And I would very much like to hear from any of you who were there about what you experienced. I know a lot more happened than what I have heard. Please share.
In my homily I shared about a time at Shrine Auditorium at USC where Fr. Francis MacNutt, who now has a healing ministry center and campus in Jacksonville, Florida, stood before the group gathered and said he was going to sing in the Spirit, i.e. not in English or another language that he might know. He said that this way we could bypass the mind, not have to think about the words, and we could trust God to do what He wants to do. It was a way to allow the Holy Spirit to minister to his people. As Romans 5 says, God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
And God did minster in a variety of ways. There were a couple physical healings, apparently some inner healings, some people felt a great peace come over them, some were set free from fears. It was something to see.
So back to Colorado. I shared in the homily that it was a large annual renewal conference in the Rocky Mountains and I had been a last-minute fill-in as the guest speaker’s plane was delayed, circling Denver when things were supposed to begin. At the close of my talk I asked our worship leader if she would just sing in the Spirit for a bit and allow The Holy Spirit to minister. If it worked in California why not in Colorado I thought? She agreed and was wonderfully blessed in doing it. And God blessed His people. I’m pretty sure He likes to do that.
Afterward, as I was dividing them into different groups -- those who saw and heard things, those touched physically, those touched inwardly — the woman I mentioned above came forward and asked me if the worship leader knew what she sang. “Why?” I asked. That was when she told me that she was a missionary and the worship leader had sung in the dialect of the group she had been ministering to, someplace in Africa as I recall, and it was a clear message to her about her ministry and how pleased her Father in heaven was with her. Tears were flowing freely. Can you imagine? Please do.
Well, the quote I used Sunday was, “Worship is the imagination station that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his Kingdom.” (from: YOU ARE WHAT YOU LOVE by James K. A. Smith)
So, what we did Sunday was to sit back and relax and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to us as perhaps He alone can because He knows our needs better than we do, even perhaps better than we might know to ask. The way we did it was by Sara, our worship leader, simply singing from her heart to the Lord, bypassing her intellect and singing in what is usually an unintelligible language. (This is, by-the-way, one thing that you are welcome to try at home. I find the shower is a good place to sing like this. You just start praising God and as someone said you put your mind in neutral and step on the gas). As she lifted up her her heart and sang, I suspect we all sat there in different degrees of comfort and receptivity, which is fine and doesn’t seem to inhibit our Lord. God has a way of working around that. I know well.
We then moved from being ministered to into ministering to the Lord and to his people by singing praises and loosing our hearts, hurts perhaps, and prayers for others and our intercessions, now in words we knew.
And as to the WHY -- amazingly, we communed with the heavenly hosts and the Kingdom came on earth as in heaven for something more than a moment. It’s a dialogue with our God. It’s where heaven touches earth, and where the veil between the two gets very thin as we lift up our hearts!
"Thus, in some ways the fulcrum of the liturgy is the sursum corda: 'Lift up your hearts.' In worship 'we lift them up to the Lord.' The Lord's Supper isn't just a way to remember something that was accomplished in the past; it is a feast that nourishes our hearts. Here is an existential meal that retrains our deepest, most human hungers.” (ibid)
This is not just a charismatic twist to the liturgy. This is what the liturgy is about, heaven and earth coming together. God blessing His people so they may be a blessing to his world. And that is what and why we did what we did and it didn’t end inside the church!
Blessings Indeed to You All,