Just a great day at The Belfrey on Sunday. Here are three highlights for me.
1) What a privilege to be in the baptismal pool at The Seven, as 11 more people put to death their old life and committed themselves to a new life following Jesus right through to eternity. Fantastic!
2) And it was inspiring at our 9am congregation to hear the increasingly frail Robin Watson remind us that God glorified Jesus not just through his resurrection, but through the cross. It involved death – the laying down of his life (John 12:23-28).
3) But most memorable for me was an experience of God’s presence whilst worshipping. As we began to call out to God in praise and lift him up with the words ‘Glory, glory in the highest’ it seemed as if the glory of God descended and I began to weep with thanksgiving. As I was standing at the front I found I could no longer sing and I hoped no-one would give me a microphone and ask me to say anything as I would not be able to speak. I really identified with the priests in 1 Kings 8:11 who ‘could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple’.
In the bible, ‘the glory of the Lord’ is his holy presence – his Spirit. I have felt his presence many many times before, but never like that. What I was experiencing was good (ie. not evil or fearful), clean (ie. pure and lovely) and weighty (ie. like something being laid on me, but it did not oppress or hurt). Talking to some afterwards, a number told me of joyful tears flowing as we sung, and one person wondered if they could hear more voices than those present, sensing the presence of angels.
Interestingly, that experience of God’s glory took place not in the heady, loud and vibrant atmosphere of The Seven (which I love) but in the traditional setting of Morning Worship at 9am, with Clergy and Reader in robes and in the context of a choir, confession and collect. This was no whipped up experience. It was the glory of the Lord.
God’s Word was then read and as we heard the great prayer of Jesus: ‘Father, glorify your name’ (John 12:28), out of which Robin then spoke, it seemed as if the Lord had already been doing something of that in our midst! What a wonderful example of the Word and Spirit coming together, with this experience of the Spirit beautifully confirming the Word.
We concluded by sharing the bread and wine, remembering Jesus’ great sacrifice of his body and blood for us. For him there was no glory without death. And it is the same for us. God is glorified in lives laid down and given up for him. Glory and death go together. So to pray ‘Glorify your name’ is actually a prayer laying down my life for God. To be his. To be a living sacrifice – like Jesus. What a great but challenging prayer. Will you pray that prayer with me?