Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17
A couple of weeks ago, one of our elders and I attended the fall stated meeting of the Presbytery of the James, which was held at Richmond’s Lord Jesus Korean Church. It was a good meeting, but it was especially thought-provoking as we sat in that worship space belonging to Korean immigrants and their children and grand-children. As pastor Hyun Bae welcomed us, and as we listened to the church’s choir sing, I was reminded of a story my father told me about his time in Korea.
My dad didn’t talk much to my sister and me about his time in the U.S. Army. Much of what we knew was related to us by our mother. Like so many others, my dad was drafted, and by the time he completed basic training and landed in Korea, the conflict was over and he was there as part of the U.S. military presence immediately following the war. My mother said that for several years after his return, it was hard for him to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with the family because of the starvation he’d witnessed in the aftermath of the war.
There is one story my dad did tell us when we were younger, a story I’ve never forgotten. Here was a very young man, who’d never traveled more than a few hours from home, now on the other side of the world in a strange and war-torn country. There were land mines to be avoided, and devastation all around, and “my job was to lie on my belly on the cold, wet ground with a rifle in my hands,” as he described it. Looking back on that story now, I can understand how much of an alien my dad must have felt like in that environment. There was nothing there to remind him of home.
But then one day, my dad heard some singing. It was coming from a small church. He couldn’t understand the words, but he recognized the melody. It was “Amazing Grace.” As we say now, my dad “had a moment.” Suddenly, in the midst of all the strangeness, my dad experienced something that connected him with home. He experienced what we describe as “the Church in every time and place.”
I think about the people who were in that small church, that day. I can’t imagine what their lives were like, or what they believed their prospects were for the future. In a place turned upside down by war, where so many didn’t even have enough to eat, they gathered in that little church to do what they always did; to sing, to pray, to hear the Word, to praise God and to encourage one another. By simply doing what they always did, even in the midst of adversity, they lifted not only themselves, but also a homesick soldier who was seven-thousand miles from the people he loved.
As I was pondering these things while sitting at Lord Jesus Korean Church, I wondered how many times we as the Church unknowingly bless others by simply doing what we do. Especially in this loud and fast-paced culture in which we live, we can feel a sense of urgency about doing something that seems big or grand, so that we feel good about ourselves. But by being faithful to God’s call to us, to gather to sing, to pray, to hear the Word, to praise God and to encourage one another, we continue to lift up the “melody” of our Lord. We live into God’s miraculous power to touch others near and far through our simple acts of obedience. Who knows who may hear us?
With prayers for your journey,