Sunday night at worship, as we were singing, a powerful memory resurfaced. One thing I love about music is its ability to transport your mind to another time, or to conjure powerful emotions and feelings. While singing the other night, both of these things happened to me.
At first, I was reminded of singing the same song every worship for the six weeks I was in Japan. It wasn’t just a casual reminder of singing the song. I remembered the voices of my brothers and sisters singing this song in both their native tongue and in mine. I could hear how earnestly they sang with passion in their voices and on their faces as they pleaded for Jesus to fill their land with His grace and mercy. I heard them as they prayed for His Word to be spread. I felt the tears I cried with Akiko, the 70 year old woman who understood her condition and wanted to change it, but she was too scared to be baptized. She was scared because she would be left alone, by herself with no home for dishonoring her family. Then I remembered how I met Akiko and why I even went to Japan.
I call it, “The Night It Clicked.” It happened late one Wednesday in August of 2001. I was meeting under a gazebo between the two main dorms on campus at OSU. The gazebo was located in a grassy lawn in the middle of a HUGE parking lot for the 1000’s of students living in the dorms. At the UC, we had a tradition to meet at the gazebo on Wednesday nights from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. and in the darkness sing. People in their dorm rooms could hear us, and people walking by or playing volleyball would often stop to listen for a while. Sometimes others joined us. It was an amazing experience similar to the awesome late night, tennis court devotionals you have at church camp under the stars, or around a fire. Only this was better. It was better because we all wanted to be there. We all had work to do and sleep to catch up on, but we chose to spend another hour together praising God and reaching out to a lost campus in song.
I described all of that, because I want you to understand what it was like when it all came together for me. It was one of those nights, at the beginning of a new school year. We were singing, and as I looked around the circle of new and familiar faces, I looked beyond them. I looked out into the parking lot at the 1000’s of cars, each representing a person. Each car representing a soul. Then I looked back at our circle of 30 – 40 and it clicked. I was so suddenly aware of how many people need what I have but don’t care, or don’t even know it’s there for them. I realized that night how vast our task is as Christians. I realized that night I could no longer sit idly by and let other people do the work I should be doing as well. That was my “Ah ha” moment.
In the weeks to come, one of the things I decided to do was participate in a Let’s Start Talking campaign. The following summer I went as part of a team of 5 to Curitiba, Brazil. The next summer, in 2003, I was part of a team of 3 to Mito, Japan. It was the memories from Mito that hit me like a brick Sunday evening as we sang “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” Singing that song made me think not only about the past, but about now, the present. As I sang, I knew my brothers and sisters in Japan had already sung that song earlier in the day. I knew they didn’t just sing it, they meant it. It was their prayer to an Almighty God who can do anything.
Thinking of them made me do something thinking of myself and the commitment I made to God when I put His Son on in baptism. The commitment I made to share the love He gives me to everyone I see. I was reminded part of that commitment was also to others. I made a commitment to the world that I would show them Jesus in my everyday actions, words, and life. If I’m not fulfilling my commitment, I’m not just letting myself down. I’m letting down those around me who need God’s love. I’m letting God down.
Singing that song Sunday night gave me more than just strong memories. It also challenged me to make good on my promises to God and to others. It reminded me I promised God I would be like his Son, so I need to do be more Christlike. It reminded me to not just think about doing something, but to do it. Instead of just saying I’m going to bring food to the homeless the next time I go to the city, I need to bring food to the homeless. Instead of just saying I want to send some money to a children’s home in India, I need to write and mail the check. Instead of just saying I’m going to send cards to the sick, I need to send the cards. Instead of just staying I’ll pray for someone, I need to get on my knees and pray. Instead of just singing some words to a pretty song, I need to earnestly mean them with all of my heart.
Thanks Tom for leading that song Sunday night. I thank God for the reminders and the challenge.
Shine, Jesus, Shine
By Graham Kendrick
Lord, the light of Your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness, shining;
Jesus, Light of the World, shine upon us,
Set us free by the truth You now bring us:
Shine on me, shine on me.
Shine, Jesus, shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory.
Blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow, flood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth Your Word, Lord, and let there be light!