I have preached in two dramatically contrasting contexts in the last three days. On Sunday I was at Wallingford Baptist Church which was packed to the rafters to witness the believers' baptisms of three young people. Each of them spoke about their faith in Jesus Christ and with refreshingly personal stories also revealed just how important was the influence of other members of that church community - Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, friends and family. The baptismal pool is near the centre of the church, so the congregation (including all these key influences) gathered all around. It really was a church family event.
I mentioned in my sermon, that though I was not quite 14 years old I still remember the moment of my baptism so vividly. The coloured tiles (with a crack in one), the experience of speaking my vows and being immersed in the water, and the hymn that we sang. At the time it was as real as it could be - as much of myself as I knew given to as much as Jesus Christ as I knew. Of course, it wasn't all that much! But here I am over 50 years later still an ever-learning disciple. As a side-bar....I didn't have as much time to preach as I had planned (and hoped!) but it didn't matter in the least.
Last night I preached at the annual Carol Service at Spurgeon's College, London. It's over ten years ago since I presided over this great event....but it was just as I remember. A roaring fire in the main hall fire-place, friends from near and far, exultant students at the end of term, Christmas fare, and a well-planned service. What an opportunity to preach to this crowd! As a side-bar, the candle-light meant I could hardly read the Scripture passage and had to stand embarassingly close to the nearest candles....but my practice of preaching without notes came in handy. Seriously, it was another occasion when the much over-used word 'privilege' really applied to gathered worship. I hope you will experience some great worship over these next few days too.