June 12, 2008 § 1 Comment
Reunion is the title of one of my favorite Allman Brothers Band songs. It is a festive, beautiful tune – one of those songs that progresses and builds, and one you kind of hope will never end. It is happy because it represents a coming together of people who love one another. A well-known grocery store chain in Florida once used the song in an advertisement as the backdrop against which family and friends are reunited to enjoy their fresh produce at some occasion that includes a bountiful spread.
This week I have been in Dallas, Texas. Along with roughly 1000 other pastors and church leaders we are meeting for what we call our General Assembly. Once a year we gather and discuss, debate and wrestle through what seem to be the pressing matters of the Church as it relates to our particular corner of the universe.
At General Assembly we gather, worship, attend seminars and take votes. Our discussions and debates are conducted according to Robert’s Rules of Order. We elect Moderators, second motions, call the question, and raise our ballots to register votes. Much of our activity is tedious and unappealing – I generally dread the thought of attending each June. The meetings are often intolerably long and many speakers come across as though they have been waiting all year to prove they can put words together in public. The hotels are generally nice, but a room is a room – and travel food eventually tastes the same regardless of how exquisite the dining.
But something brings me back each year – it is the reunion of friends – friends who travel from all points of the globe. Every year I see familiar faces of leaders from churches in our past, older pastors who have helped shape me, younger pastors I have had some influence with, friends I have served beside, and former classmates now scattered in churches and ministries worldwide.
While it is true that we deliberate over the business of the denomination, it is the interaction of friends that makes this a special week. We laugh over past mistakes and exploits. We weep over broken ministries and marriages. We reminisce over shared journeys. We shake hands and embrace. We watch the NBA Finals. We dine together. We offer opinions. We agree and disagree.
There is something fresh and inexplicably sweet about being reunited to those we love. Each time our son flies in from Florida we enjoy the taste of reuniting joy. Whether for Christmas break or summer vacation, those first few moments are particularly powerful because, brief as our time together is, our family is restored in that reunion. In roughly 24 hours I will be reunited to my wife and two daughters who await my return home in Maryland – frankly, I can’t wait.
This may help explain the dread Jesus’ disciples exhibited when He finally got through and convinced them that He would die and leave them. For them, death was final and their bond forever severed. But Jesus knew better and assured His grieving friends that they too would one day be where He was going (John 14:1ff). In short, He knew they would be reunited.
Just this evening, at the end of a long night, I ran into a pastor who used to be the campus minister at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where Katherine and I served. We laughed hard as we reminisced about our time together. That brief encounter made my day.
Winding my way to the elevator, and then into my room I realized that for Christ-followers, every good reunion is a foretaste of what will one day be – in heaven – that one day we will be ‘home,’ never-again to be separated by geography, sin or death. And it dawned on me that this is why we are here. We are here to announce that the Kingdom of God has come, and with it, the promise that the Church is intended to be an imperfect, yet distinctive microcosm of heaven on earth, serving as a taste of what will one day.