The team has arrived and the learning is in full swing. Yesterday was a day of movement. At the end we landed in Chichicastatenango. It is cold, colorful and beautiful. This is an odd place to begin our experience, but it provides a context for the visit to Pastor Sebastian’s church this afternoon. But first…the Sunday market. Sunday morning is a market day in Guatemala and while that seems so unusual for us “Tennesseans”, it is the norm of the culture here. Worship happens in the afternoon or, as in the case of the church we visited today, they worship on Monday.
The market is situated between two churches where people gather and enter for prayer. The steps of the church are filled with women selling fresh flowers and candles, people sleeping or waiting, visitors hustling about the crowd. Incense is thick and the clouds are visible…welcoming the prayers of the people as they find their way up through the crowd, in between the gatherings of trade, and to the altars of prayer. The Mayan and Catholic traditions are visible. The faith and hope of the people stands on their faces. Light another candle, add another prayer, speak to God in this place. We are guests in this culture. I want to blend in the same way the incense hangs in the room…listening as the prayers of the saints rise.
We were welcomed with a marching band of youth from the community and church at Xepezol. They played a song and Pastor Sebastian welcomed us. Then we all marched with the band and into the sanctuary. Worship was great. Lots of music and reading of Scriptures. Many greetings and saludos. This particular church reminded me of ours in Franklin, TN. They have two music groups; need more space; and there are children everywhere!
I preached in the church today which is a very humbling experience. Chester translates with ease so the language barrier seems not to be quite as limiting as it may seem. There is something about worshipping with people of another language and culture that resets my spirit to the greatness of God. It’s hard to accept how easy it is for God to be limited to the depths of my personal experience. How do any of us ever think for even a moment that we know the fullness of all the ways God speaks and manifests the Holy?
Looking around in the sanctuary today and I see the expressions of prayer and devotion. I sense the Spirit moving through the congregation and at times being palpable. We join in. Different languages and cultures. Different expressions and rhythms. One God. One Christ. One Spirit. I do believe that the church that represents the body of Christ is strengthened when we approach the throne of God together. It is an act of faith. It says we believe in the words: all tribes, nations, languages and races will be gathered in worship and praise. (Revelation 5). Every now and then we need to practice this unity in a very tangible way because it offers us a perspective of unity in Christ that our spirits need. Wherever and however that can happen, let it be.