Last Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of going down to a house dedication on the southeast side of Indianapolis in a neighborhood named Fountain Square. The Byrd Family, specifically Jonathan Byrd, oldest son of a dear friend of mine by the same name who died two years ago, worked all last week on a home which was to be provided for a needy family in the area. In fact, the Byrd house was one of three that were dedicated that afternoon.
I arrived just a a few minutes before the dedication time of 3:00 p.m., having just finished conducting a team meeting in downtown Indy. As usual, Jonathan was there waiting for me, ready to give me the traditional hug that we I get each time we are together. I also saw several other people I know; including David, Jonathan’s younger brother, their wives, and Ginny, their mom. This family has been involved in ministry since the beginning – giving back to countless community initiatives and continuing my friends’s legacy of advancing the kingdom of God on earth. And I saw a number of other area ministry leaders as well – people I have met throughout the years, primarily through the Byrd family.
The first home was dedicated by Greg Dixon, the Senior Pastor of Baptist Temple, and was provided for a young area family. Before Greg started the ceremony, he reminded me that St. Paul Street, where all three homes were located, was once the center of prostitution, drugs and murder for the entire southeast side of Indianapolis. It is now a fully integrated community, where blacks and whites live in harmony next door to each other, connected through a common bond in their love of Jesus Christ. What struck me throughout the dedications for all these homes was the thread of ministry and the desire of God’s people to provide for each other. It reminded me of the beginning of the Acts II church, where each person gave as they were able.
Two things struck me more than anything else. The first thing was the response of the audience to the messages. And here, I must explain a cultural phenomenon. A black man, obviously a devout believer, kept interjecting “Amen” at many of the things Pastor Dixon said. The more Greg spoke, the more emphatic the responses became. Now by and large, we white folks, other an extremely conservatives Baptists, tend not to add to the message from our places in the audience. And from what I understand from my black friends, it is commonplace in their churches to signify their agreement by adding their own “Amen” affirmations throughout the message. Admittedly, there is a part of me that thinks that is pretty cool. Of course, music and other forms of worship, including dancing and singing in black churches also tends to be, by white standards, a little over the top for most mainline denominations. But I have to admire the intensity and authenticity with which members of the black community worship the Lord.
And didn’t the Lord want us to worship Him with wild abandon and genuine love? Well, that’s what I saw Friday. At each of the three homes that were dedicated that day, this particular black believer got amped up and was a constant reminder that we serve a wonderful, gracious God. Sometimes, as a pastor, I get more revved up when I see people agreeing with what I am saying about God. I can only imagine what it would be like to have a congregation full of people responding, “Amen”. So, I witnessed a number of people, tolerant of each other, and the ways each of us tends to worship the Father.
The other thing I really enjoyed about Friday was the Bible verse chosen by the leader who dedicated the Byrd house, second of the three events of the afternoon. After the completion of each dedication ceremony, the new owners received a Bible with a key to their new home. Of course, we have the desire that they will read the Scriptures each day, and will dedicate their lives to the service of God. But before the giving of the key and the Bible, the person dedicating each home told a little of their own journey and read a favorite verse. During the Byrd dedication, the leader read from Romans, and so that becomes my verse of the day. In Romans, 8:38-39, Paul tells us, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What a wonderful sentiment for each of us to remember. Because whatever we do in our lives, and however we earn our livelihoods, it is important to remember that we are loved by God. My encouragement today is to affirm that God loves each of us. In fact, He loved us so much that He sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins so that we could be reunited with Him. And my prayer is that you will practice your faith and your dedication t0 the Lord with a renewed vigor. Can I get an “Amen”?