It was a first for me, in 34 years of ministry. The fire alarm went off about five minutes into worship. And then it went off again, about five minutes later, mid-baptism. We evacuated the building…everyone was calm…I told people we would re-convene outside and wait to see what the fire chief had to say. It was fairly clear that we were having an alarm system malfunction and not a real fire, but it was going to take the firefighters a while to figure it all out, so we cancelled worship.
I may have appeared cool and collected on the outside, but my mind was going a mile a minute. Mostly, I was saying to myself, “This can’t be happening…we can’t cancel worship…it’s Music Sunday. Our choirs have prepared, the music is going to be gorgeous, and we planned the service so carefully.” I checked in with the fire chief once more, and then the grandmother of the children who were to be baptized found me on the front lawn. “Kelly, can you finish the baptism?” Sure! I filled a bowl with water, our sound board technician appeared to hold my book, I began the liturgy and when I finished, I heard music. The choir had gathered around the baptism family and the song began, “I was there to hear your borning cry…I’ll be there when you are old…” It was one of those magical moments.
But as people dispersed and the building emptied, I felt the loss of what we had missed, the loss of the day’s carefully-planned and well-rehearsed worship experience, the music I’d been looking forward to, the prayer updates I wanted to share with the church family.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I gained a full sense of perspective. I have colleagues who serve churches where there have been real fires, devastating fires. Our building is intact, no one was injured. I still sting a little from the loss of a precious Sunday, but I’m aware that there is much reason for thankfulness. The loss was nothing compared to what it might have been.
Still, winning is more fun than losing.
Last night, our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers lost the NBA championship. All of us in the Cleveland area remember last year, and how fun it was to win. I don’t know that there has ever been a city more appreciative of a win or a team than Clevelanders were last June. But again, perspective is important.
The day before the NBA finals began, LeBron James’ California home was vandalized; someone painted a racial slur on the home’s gate. James handled the incident like a winner. He was the class act that we have known him so often to be. He was first concerned about his family’s safety, then he commented that perhaps if someone like him could be the victim of a hate crime, it will further the necessary conversation about race in America. From something that looks like such a loss, something good can come. In one interview, he said, “I’m at a point in my life where my priorities are in place and basketball comes second to my family. It actually comes after me continuing to be a role model to the youth and focusing on what I can do with my foundation.” LeBron James is a winner in my book.
Anytime we can remember the things that matter most, we win. Anytime we can act and respond in love, and remember that we are loved, we win.
“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:57)