A Reflection for St. Michael's Day
by Chad Bird
I'm going to put the entirety of this article on the front page. This is a real picture of church growth. This is a real picture of the unity between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven. The unity—the communion—is centered around the Lamb of God. As you may have read in my sermon from yesterday, it is His blood which gives us occasion to sing together with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
This is the story of how one small, country parish, nestled between wheat fields in the vast stretches of the Texas panhandle, astounded the experts on church growth by becoming a megachurch overnight, without even trying.
The gravel parking lot around St. John’s began to fill early that morning. The shadow from the steeple cast the image of the cross on the western side of the church as families from miles around climbed out of Fords and Chevrolets and the occasional Buick to make their way into the sanctuary. The pastor stood by the front door, greeting folks who came in, asking about Aunt Susan’s broken hip, and the Reynold’s new horse, and how the football game how turned out in Sunray the other night. The man of God who served this parish wasn’t much to look at, and his accent was a bit too northernish for most people’s tastes, but they loved the man anyway. He had baptized their children, buried their grandparents, and preached a fairly decent sermon most Sundays.
By the time church was ready to begin, it still hadn’t happened—that shocking influx of worshipers I spoke of. In fact, things looked just about as ordinary as ordinary could be. The Kirkpatricks, with their five children, took up most of the next-to-last pew, just like every Lord’s day. The spinster organist, Ms. Schultz, was playing softly and hitting, well, most every note. Hymnals were opened to the page where the divine service would soon begin. At 10:30 sharp, Pastor Baker walked up front and spoke the same words he did at the start of every Sunday morning service, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And the congregation responded with a hearty, “Amen!”
Then, without any warning, it happened. The floodgates were opened. Worshipers began streaming in. Before the congregation had finished saying, “Amen,” this rural Texas minichurch was transformed into the mega of megachurches.
Through the stained glass windows and the steeply pitched roof, seraphim swooped down from celestial realms. Each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And around the sanctuary you could hear them chant one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” The foundations of St. John’s shook at the sound of their voices and the whole church was filled with the smoke of incense.
But they were not alone. Cherubim winged their way down from the heavenly Jerusalem. Not the cute, chubby Precious Moments’ angels, but massive, manly warriors who stationed themselves like sentinels around the sanctuary, belting out the words to every hymn sung, adding their Amen to every divine word read and preached that day.
But the angels were not alone. With that angelic crowd came saints beyond number, men and women who had fought the good fight, finished the race, and gone on to glory. But here they were, back at St. John’s during this Sunday morning service to lend their voices to the earthly choir of farmers and ranchers and coaches and teachers who were still on their way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Every pew was packed. Standing room only in the aisles. Some sat on the rafters and looked down with serene gazes upon the altar, where, wonder of wonders, there was a throne. And on that throne was a Lamb, slain yet alive, sacrificed but resurrected. Every face of every worshiper, angelic and human, earthly and heavenly, was fixated upon His face, for there they beheld the face of God Himself.
With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, the people of St. John’s lauded and glorified the name of that Lamb, their Lord Jesus Christ, that day. Every song shook the building as the celestial and terrestrial choirs blended their voices. The Lord’s Supper was a reunion meal, where the folks on earth and the saints in heaven received from their Host the food above all foods and the drink that quenches the deepest thirst.
It was a day to remember. And it was a day to repeat. For the following Sunday it would happen again. And then again. And then yet again, when this tiny Texas church would bulge at the seams with worshipers from realms seen and unseen, all joining together in the adoration of the Lamb whose kingdom is without end.