Last Sunday (the 17th), the beginning of the congress, seems like weeks ago. It has been quite a journey.
Talking with a new friend, Mitch, he humorously described the Congress in this way (slightly paraphrased): “I feel like this Congress is like a buffet table. All really rich food. Great food. Beautiful food. I try to eat it all in at once. And I’m SO full. No more! I can’t possibly fit anymore. Cramming it into my head, wanting it to settle into my heart. No more!” 🙂
Another person said, “If you’re an introvert like me you are on overload!!”
From 7 am until usually 10 or 11 pm you are surrounded by thousands of people. Your only alone time is when you go to the bathroom. And then you do it again the next day. And it’s not just casual light-hearted conversation, though there is certainly some of that. It’s discussing things that challenge you to whole new levels. Then you barely have time to process it before moving on to the next thing. You write it down really quickly, storing it in the back of your brain, and hope that someday you can take all those pieces and begin processing what exactly this all means for me and you…and for this world.
At the closing ceremony, though, we went back to the foot of the cross. “Wow” hardly provides as an adequate word to describe it. A friend described the closing ceremony last night as “High Church Anglican Communion Liturgy with contemporary African characteristics.” And an orchestra. And a multi-national choir. There was proclamation and confession. The bread and cup. A community of peoples. 198 nations represented (but many more actual people groups), passionately singing with hands outstretched “The Power of the Cross”, “In Christ Alone”, and “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” And then commissioned to go from this place. We came here so that we can go out from here…and into all the world.
After this you can’t tell me there is no God. You certainly can’t tell me that Christianity is a Western religion passed on to people through imperialism. You can’t tell me that the transformation of lives (and whole villages and nations) is a PR campaign made by highly emotional people. You can’t tell me that men and women were willing to die (and did) for a lie. You can’t always resort to “yes, but all Christians are hypocrites” because that is just a cop-out. You can’t tell me that the power of the cross of Christ is something made up in the minds of people. You can’t just assume that I’m saying all this just because I just came down from a spiritual mountaintop. You just can’t. Because all these things are just not true. But don’t believe me just because I said it. Go to the Bible. Go to Jesus. Go and see for yourself. And then come back and let’s talk.
But I’m not going to lie to you–the Christian life is hard sometimes. It is costly. It takes you out of your comfort zone. It takes you away so that while you are still in the world you are no longer of the world. It challenges your worldview. But it is worth it. It is so worth it.
So, I walk away this week- still processing, still figuring out what all this means in day-to-day life – and you with me. May we all walk away changed and committed to whatever is next. May we have a heightened sense that God is on the move, and that we get to play a part.
Over the next days and weeks I will still be writing some of my observations from my time here, and would like to invite you to be part of the conversation. This conversation –this task– is hardly finished. 🙂