I don’t what last week was like for you, but for me it was insanely full. Lots of people to meet, conversations to have, a funeral to conduct, a prayer meeting to lead, risk assessments to read, review & approve, a video to record, edit & publish, things & people to organise, equipment to purchase, some leadership coaching to attend, a staff meeting to lead, a regional Ministers’ meeting with colleagues to participate in, a preach to prepare, and a service to lead which would include serving communion for the first time in over a year; discussions, meetings, preparation, emails, calls, orders, etc, etc, etc. I was due to have a couple of days off at the end of the week, but due to unexpected crises, I spent much of those days working. That’s not normal – in lots of ways it was an exceptional week. I try not to use the word ‘busy’ because that can means lots of different things. But it was a very full week with little time & space spare.
And yet God was at work through it all. I’m not sure I would say I was aware of it much of the time though. Until I stopped (well, almost stopped). As I led the monthly prayer meeting via Zoom, and encouraged us to listen as much as we speak. Specifically as I was quiet and others were praying, God spoke to me, and kept on speaking. During that prayer meeting I filled my notebook with small, seemingly unrelated thoughts/words/inspirations from the Lord. Now I see that my week had been so full I’d been drowning God out. I was so grateful for that time – that pause. Through it I had a growing sense of general expectation about what God was going to do during & through our service on Sunday morning. But I had no idea specifically what that was going to be. I had a sense that our first in-person Communion would be significant somehow, but beyond that I had to be realistic about the fact that we’re still learning how to do ‘in person’ services again.
On the day that I’d be preaching about how God is in the habit of exceeding expectations, I wondered if I’d be left wanting. But God didn’t disappoint, then or since.
The service wasn’t perfect or slick, but somehow had just the right amount of imperfection and reality. Though it was longer than anticipated, Communion was so powerful; serving people in person and sharing the meal together after such a long break, combined with the amazing song – so good. The Spirit was at work during our sung worship (though much of it was quietly spoken/mumbled behind masks). It was nice to be able to see the white’s of people’s eyes as I was preaching (and I’m looking forward to being able to read their faces too), but the preach kept to time (not what I expected!). And we had little Zeke Acquah in the building for his first service, exploring the space and playing with his toys. Wonderful!
But it was about more even than that…
After the service as I spoke to people (whilst maintaining appropriate social distance) I got a greater sense of what God had been doing. One person had been in tears as they were taken back to their Baptism service by one of the songs, and a reminder of the Bible story when brought them to faith. It was a joy to kneel by their side and pray for them. Since then I’ve had conversations with people who’ve expressed how God has been at work in them in recent weeks, how He’s been Ministering to them and bringing healing & wholeness; I’ve spoken to some who’ve been amazed at how God has answered their prayers in ways they had not even thought to hope. I’ve been part of pastoral discussions about identity which required the individual taking a risk and making themselves vulnerable, with a carer who has been losing their partner to Alzheimer, with someone who has hope & peace in the midst of inoperable Cancer progression, and been part of challenging conversations about addiction & prayers for transformation.
I went into last weekend with high expectations for a one hour service, and I’ve started this new week feeling like a Minister again. Because God is in the habit of exceeding our limited expectations.
It has been said that “the secret to happiness is low expectations” – but I’m not looking for happiness which is the result of circumstance, instead I’m seeking out joy – the deep contentment that comes from the Lord – seeing God at work and being invited to join Him. But whatever you’re expecting, be prepared for God to go above and beyond – because He loves you and wants the very best for you!
Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us
is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of –
infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.
May He be given glory forever and ever through endless ages
because of His master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 3:20-21 [Living Bible]