Weekly Inspiration from Rev. John Williams, Senior Minister

January 14, 2018

It’s an easy discussion to fall into with anyone who has a similar history. It begins with the question, “Do you remember…?” That starts a rich exchange that retraces those events that have enhanced your life. “Do you remember your first dance?” That simple inquiry unleashes a whole stream of responses – both negative and positive. “Oh, it was pure magic. The gym was transformed into this other worldly fantasy of shining stars and floating clouds. The music was electrifying. If only I had known how ta dance!” That question –  do you remember? – ignites so many meaningful moments. “Do you remember Thanksgiving dinner at your grandma’s house…? Do you remember your wedding day…? Do you remember your child’s first birthday?” Oh yes, we do remember. Then, the question inevitably follows, “Why don’t people do it like that anymore?”

I was involved in one of those conversations recently. We settled into recalling that somewhat distant religious experience known as the Revival. All sorts of images immediately jumped to mind. I recall (the few times I attended a revival) the spirited singing. With the power of the multitudes, we sang at the top of our lungs:

“We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love, For Jesus who died and is now gone above.
Hallelujah, thine the Glory. Hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah, thine the glory: revive us again.”

We raised the rafters. While I don’t remember the words spoken, I do remember how animated and excited the visiting pastor became during the sermon. And, I loved the invitation hymn where we sang 83 verses of “Just as I Am” waiting for that moment when someone would step forward having encountered the living God. Someone always did! Why can’t we have that kind of revival again? A thought kept recurring that I could not shake. “All worship is revival!” “No, sometimes weekly worship is routine and lifeless and dull,” I argued.  “WHY is it different from revival?” I kept hearing  I suspect the thought came from God. As I wrestled with an answer, I was startled to discover that it really wasn’t the passion of the preacher or the saints singing or the decisions that revived my spirit. The difference always centered on ME. I went to those revivals excited, anticipating a meaningful experience. I EXPECTED God to be present. When I came with such expectation, I was not disappointed. I experienced revival! Come to think of it, whenever I remember an event of significance much of the joy was in the expectation of what might occur. Maybe, I need to expect more! Come, join us this Sunday EXPECTING to meet God in worship. Come to our revival. I know, I can’t wait!!!!

January 7, 2018

We all know industrious people who can take something old and in a few simple steps make it remarkably new again. I am married to one of those gifted people! On New Year’s Day (a rare day off from her busy work schedule), Cherilyn decided it was time to recover our dining room chairs. We have had our dining room set for fifteen years. It is the first we picked out and purchased ourselves, so it holds special meaning for us. The fabric was white satin with a pattern that was showing signs of age that threatened to become an eyesore in the not too distant future. She removed the cushions and recovered them with a new fabric, more modern and appropriate for who we are now. After recovering the cushions and reattaching them, they are ready for use. And, they are beautiful! She didn’t touch the wood or alter the design, but they have truly been transformed! The “bones” are the same, but they look remarkably different – refreshed, renewed, revived. The colors in the new cushion pick up the other colors in the room. They’ve taken on a new look – fresher, newer, prettier. And the interesting thing is the whole room looks different – the same features, but there is a welcome new look just from altering the chairs a bit. I’m grateful to Cherilyn for her creativity and desire to refresh our daily view. I look forward to her next update project…

As I’ve enjoyed our “new” chairs, they’ve led me to a new understanding of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19, it is recorded that Paul came to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He asked about their baptism and they said it was of John. Paul spoke to them of the baptism in Jesus and of the Holy Spirit. He laid his hands on them and they were filled with the Spirit. They prophesied and spoke in tongues. Basically, they were the same but they had been wrapped in a new Spirit that gave them a new look – refreshed, renewed, revived! The Holy Spirit transformed their lives and their faith grew, and in the process, they changed the surroundings. For they were new people – the same, yet different – fresher somehow… Their lives changed those around them because they were kinder, gentler, more compassionate people. The “bones” were the same, but there was a new fire in their soul that reached out to change others. It was beautiful. It was dramatic. It was life changing. Come, Holy Spirit, baptize me – update me, renew me, refresh me, enable me to alter my surroundings by accepting a new look of love that redefines my faith, so I can help redesign the world.