This past Sunday, on the way out of worship, a visitor said to me, “There sure is a lot of love in this place.”  My reply was something like, “Yes, there certainly is.”  I could have gone on to say, “And my, how great it is to see it being sent in so many different directions by so many different people.”  By the end of the day, my description of it would be “overwhelming.”
It started earlier in the week – or perhaps a couple weeks ago.  People would take a couple extra minutes after an FHL small group gathering … or worship … or a meeting … or when stopping by the office.  The conversation generally would start out with, “I don’t expect there will be time for us to talk on the 19th …” Or “There will be so many other people on the 19th who want to talk to you …”  We then would look back over God @ Work in our midst over the past years.  There would be smiles, and laughter, an occasional tear, a hug (or 2), and many well-wishes.
Then came Sunday.  There were so many people to greet on the way in, I feared I might forget to process to the chancel to start the service.  The handbells set the tone for worship, and then Monica shared a long-ago memory of G@W as the people of Charity prayed for shingles.  Having “children” who were collage age (and older) come forward for the children’s sermon momentarily froze me – while the smiles on their faces told me they were loving every moment.  The music was exceptional (yet, in many ways, felt normal).  If you would like to actually see the words of the Hymn of the Day, I suggest you go to By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty – YouTube (It’s a great hymn).  I didn’t get very far past my family during the sharing of the peace, but communion distribution offered the opportunity to greet about 50% of the crowd by name.  I expected that “Thine the Amen” would be the song stuck in my head this week, but instead it has been “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
The time from the end of the service through the end of the banquet is a virtual blur.  So many people … so many conversations and hugs … yet so many people and conversations missed as well.  Everyone – including the speakers – was way too kind.  The food was great, but part of me wishes I had skipped the meal to circulate the hall and spend a little quality time with everyone.  We eventually got home to join the out-of-town family our children were entertaining in our condo.  It was 11:00 p.m. that night when Monica and I finally retired … and approaching noon the next day when our house was entering recovery mode.  What’s the word?  Overwhelming.
Monica and I cannot thank you enough for the kind words expressed in person, via email/texts, and the staggering number of cards received … along with the gifts.  I had hoped to rest this week, but I dare not put off too long the task of writing thank-you notes.   Again, overwhelming.
In my sermon (if anyone was listening) I tried to focus upon the fact that we have something much more valuable than emotional experiences.  We have God’s Word of the Gospel, which remains sure … and powerful … and uplifting.  What’s the saying? God is good … all the time.   He consistently and constantly comes to us with what can only be described as overwhelming love … which is really what Sunday’s atmosphere was all about.
The disciple whom Jesus loved describes this overwhelming love this way:  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3.1-3)
There were many times on Sunday when I felt like saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this” … the people … the music … the smiles and hugs … the conversations … the entire day … the overwhelming love going in so many different directions all at the same time.  Part of me wanted to “freeze time” to keep things just as they were.  But this would have been inappropriate for many reasons.  One is that some who wanted to be there on Sunday were not … and that would have excluded them.  Additionally, there are many people in the world (and in our neighborhoods) who have yet to be touched by God’s overwhelming love … and God has commissioned us to be the ones who touch them – rather than being the “frozen chosen”.  And then there is the simple fact that it does – and will – get better than this … which is why we call Communion just a “foretaste of the feast to come.” (have you ever heard the song “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me?)
We are overwhelmed because “God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. …In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear. … we love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4.16-19)  Please know that we love you … and truly appreciate the love you have shared with us … and that “God who is Good – All the Time” has plans for his overwhelming love to keep growing … in you … and me … and in our world.  Thus, the only word that comes to my mind is “overwhelming.”

THURSDAY’S THIRST … for tomorrow
After this week, Thursday’s Thirst will take a break in publication for at least one month.  When it does come back, it will only be sent to those who expressly request to keep receiving it.  Upon receiving your request, I will send you an acknowledgement within a week (If you don’t receive an acknowledgement, it means I did not receive your request).

Overwhelming Love