Sunday the 24th of July A.D. (Anno Domini, "In the Year of Our Lord") 2011 became "Gateway Christian Sunday" for yours truly. Not necessarily by my design either.
"The Lord works in mysterious ways. . . ."
I had indeed planned to attend morning Worship at Gateway Christian Church, an independent CC which was founded in the late 1990s. It now has a building on the north side of IH 24 between Exits 11 and 8, northeast of Clarksville. Scott Witt is the Pastor.
Ron and Judy Fichter, who live near me, picked me up and took me to Gateway. Once there I snacked on coffee and pastries -- including a very tasty lemon-flavored mini-cupcake -- while chatting with old and new friends.
Then, when the worship service began, it commenced with a baptism. The Independent Christian Churches, like the Disciples of Christ and the (a cappella) Churches of Christ, practice the form of baptism used in New Testament times: immersion (the true meaning of the original Greek word) following confession of faith. Today's baptism was of a boy by his father. This immediately caused me to remember that I had baptised both of my children; those two immersions are cherished and valued memories for yours truly!
The baptistry at Gateway is in the floor of what I'd call the "stage", where the band performs during singing and the pastor can stand to deliver the sermon. And apparently there's a trench behind the water tank, where the baptiser can stand and only get his forearms wet while dunking the candidate. What a smart idea! Whenever I've done a baptism I had to wear "hip waders" to stay that dry -- or get wet myself while immersing a candidate in a lake!
Pastor Scott's sermon was a continuation of an in-depth series on the Nazarene's Sermon on the Mount. Today it was "Refuse to Worry" and covered Matthew 6:25-34. As Pastor Scott walked up onto the "stage", the sound system broadcast a recording of the pop hit "Don't Worry Be Happy". Early in the message I seized opportunity to quietly say the name of another song, from the flick The Lion King: "Hakuna Matata". Which expresses much the same thing as the other song AND Jesus' teaching.
Pastor Scott's words were an exposition of the meaning of the Gospel verses, along with supporting verses from elsewhere in the Bible. His method reminded me strongly of Dr. John MacArthur of the radio show "Grace to You".
Well, my experience of Gateway didn't end with the benediction that closed Worship. You see, among the several Bible studies the congregation offers is a Sunday evening supper and study which Pastor Scott leads. Last evening it took place at the home of Scott Hollingsworth (normally it's at the "parsonage"). Now, it just "happens" that THIS Scott is the man who lent me a Saturn SUV to temporarily be my transportation to and from work! So I already knew where his house was, north of Clarksville and northwest of the church. We feasted on a delicious and sumptuous potluck (mostly) meal, which included hot dogs and bratwurst grilled out on the Hollingsworth deck near the above-ground pool. (Wish I'd known; I'd have carried my swim-trunks with me!) And I DO have a strong taste for my brats!
The study which followed the supper covered the final half of the Letter of Jude. According to tradition this short epistle was written by a half-brother of Jesus. Another half-brother of the Lord wrote the Letter of James (and not either of the two Jameses among the Twelve Apostles). The study went in such a way that there was plenty of verbal interaction (rather than merely Pastor Scott lecturing). And afterward we had a time for prayer. I shared my deep thanks for living again in Clarksville and for my job at the State Library in Nashville.
Not having my swim-trunks I didn't take up host Scott's invitation to stay awhile and swim, as did some of the others. Instead I headed for home, across the city on Donna Drive. As I drove I felt deep contentment and peace of mind.
Which is what getting together with one's brother and sister Christians is supposed to do! Amen?