Today I am writing a very personal post. It is an attempt to remember a beautiful moment of grace on our trip to Trento this past May. I am not sure these words will make sense to anyone else, though I am sure the truth and beauty of what I glimpsed applies to everyone. In any case, this morning I am writing for myself as an act of thanksgiving and meditation.
The first full day of our Wittenberg 2017 gathering was full of talks - lessons on indulgences, the sad history of debt incurred by bishops in buying their posts, the the tragic coldness of heart, the anti-Semitism and even violence which gripped the Church in the decades, or centuries, before the Reformation. As I listened to the presentations, I understood fully that this story was my story, these people were my people. The Church had gone astray just as Israel had wandered from her first love, and I was entirely capable of doing the same. In personal, less visible ways, I had done the same. And yet, God had never let go of me/of us.
The next morning, we opened with worship. After a few songs, much to my surprise and delight, our young Israeli worship leader launched into "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord." My first thought was, "Isn't she too young to know that song? Because I first heard it in the '70's when I was a young child....."
And then, in a mysterious way I cannot explain, I was back at my Assemblies of God church in 1975. It was as if God had whisked me to another time and place, with Him, to behold the eight-year-old Amy. For a few brief moments, I had an inkling of what it might be like to exist outside of time because what I was seeing was as present to God as the meeting in Trento - not a memory as I typically experience it. We (God and I) were at an evening revival service at Trinity Church in Lubbock Texas. The Holy Spirit was moving in such a way that the church was packed every night of the week. The eight-year-old Amy was too young to understand that this was remarkable - it seemed perfectly normal and right that people should go to church every night as soon as dinner was over. I saw my young self sitting on the floor near the wall because we arrived too late to sit in the pews. The congregation was caught up in worship with beautiful, complex harmonies dancing over and around the melody, "Sing Alleluia to the Lord." I saw waves of grace washing over me; I saw the Holy Spirit brooding over me; and I saw that as an eight-year old, I was unaware of the grace God was pouring into my soul. But my ignorance did not deter Him. He loved me (He loves me; He will love me) without reason.
Amazed and undone, aware that my body was still in a worship meeting in Trento, I tried hard to stifle the sobbing which seemed the only possible response. I managed to keep rather quiet, but I could not stem the flow of tears. Suddenly, we (God and I) were swept to another setting.
This time I was in my early 30's sitting in a pew at Cristo Rey Catholic Church as my dark-skinned, dark-eyed fellow parishioners sang "Cant Aleluia al Senor." Once again, I was overcome with grace - the grace that led me to that time and place, the grace that flowed into my life from the parish, the grace of God at work in all the people in that scene. The tears flowed harder and faster because of the love I felt for my people, who were not my people by birth, and my parish, which was new to me as a recent Cathoiic. It was a love kindled by the Holy Spirit. Though I did know and love some wonderful individuals in that parish, my love for the place went beyond reason.
Eventually the song ended and I settled back into my 45 year old self attending a reconciliation gathering in Trento, Italy. But the crying was not over. At noon prayer my friend Phillip led us in another song, an ancient cry of God's people - "Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy. Lord, have mercy." Once again I began weeping as I heard our Lord whisper, "Amy. you are swimming in a sea of mercy! Look where you are standing. Remember your sins and the sins of the Church and see where I have carried you all. The work is not finished, but my kindness has led my Church to repentance. If my mercy had ever relented, you would not be here."
What could I do but cry?