On an island, called Hopetown, Abaco, in The Bahamas sits a tiny church St. James Methodist that has been serving its parishioners since 1820. During our recent stay there a few weeks back, and in spite of the fact that we are all Catholic, we attended the 9:30 Family Service since it was Lent, and we felt so blessed to be in such a special place on such a beautiful spring day. Unlike the massive churches back in the states, at capacity, this charming and welcoming building could hold maybe 100 people max. Being unfamiliar with a Methodist service we all agreed we’d just follow the lead of the locals as to when to sit or stand and try not to embarrass ourselves in the process.
Three things struck me very deeply as I tried to soak in the nuances of this experience all in the one short hour we were there.
The first would have to be the people. When asked to greet your neighbor, it wasn’t just a polite nod or handshake like I’m accustomed too with the person you came with, this was people leaving their seats and walking all over the church to welcome all, friends and strangers to share in this celebration of praise to the Lord. And it wasn’t just the adults it was all the little children too shaking hands, giving hugs, smiling, and saying hello. This went on for a good five minutes and actually got a little loud with all the joy being spread.
Second, because it was the children’s or family celebration, the ministry leader delivered the message in a manner that got the point across so even the youngest member could take away God’s message for their hearts. He engages the children each week by giving one of them a black velvet bag to take home and place in it an object of their own choosing, which he is not aware of in advance. During the service, he must pull the object out, identify it, and incorporate it into his message. On this Sunday he pulled out a lemon/lime juice squeezer. At first, he wasn’t even sure what it was or how it was used, and he had to ask the kids for help in that regard. But once he got it he quickly said sometimes God gives us lemons, when what we really want is a big juicy steak. They are both food that will nourish our bodies and while one may appear to taste better initially with little or no effort, the other when squeezed provides juice, and all the other blessing we receive add the sugar to make it sweeter, and although we may have to work harder to get it, God’s plan includes learning to appreciate all the little gifts He gives us, learn all the lessons He has to teach us, including squeezing life out of every breath we have here on this Earth, to earn that tall, chilled, and frosted lemonade for all of Eternity.
Finally, looking forward at the altar, past the” Sea Coral Chorus” through two windows, was a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean with multiple colors of blue and green I can’t even begin to describe, with waves crashing onto the beach, and tropical breezes blowing and palm trees swaying. It’s about as close to Heaven on Earth as I have ever felt. And buried in the sand is a huge cross with these words written ever so small in white on this weathered grey cross, “God and Country” On this Easter weekend upon which the Greatest Gift was ever given to mankind I’d like to leave you with this quote as a reminder of our daily responsibilities as humans.
“Christians are in a sense, dual citizens of the Kingdom and not just the country where we live.” - Ed Stetzer
May the joy of His rising lift all our hearts! Happy Easter!!