One of the most precious memories from my marriage was experienced during our first holiday in Europe. My husband decided very hurriedly that we should take a trip to Rome, Italy. When this plan was mentioned to my sister-in-law over the telephone, her immediate response was that she would very much like to accompany us. After a very hurried, whispered conversation with her husband, he also agreed to join us.
We arrived in Holland and enjoyed wonderful food and a good night's rest. The following day being Sunday, we arrived in the parking area to pick up our rental vehicle, dressed in what I would describe as Sunday clothing. Thus, we began our journey to Rome.
I do not remember how we decided which church we would like to attend. We simply parked and entered a long, narrow sanctuary with bench seating on either side of the one centre aisle. High up — almost to the ceiling — were narrow windows lining the whole length and width of the walls and letting in the sunshine. Outside were very tall trees, and the wind kept swaying the branches gently, making a moving pattern on the floor of the chapel. We did not recognize the language of the people who had warmly greeted us upon our entrance.
Regardless of the language barrier, there was an unmistakable sense of joy which permeated the whole of the church. The organist put a great amount of energy into his presentation of the hymns. Some hymns we recognized, and we happily sang the words. My husband, having a very good voice for harmonizing, contributed his presentation of the tune. There was no movement of heads turning to look at us from the front — no, it was simply accepted. We were indeed fellow worshippers. Recently, I came across one of Fanny Crosby's writings and it reminded me of this wonderful time of worship:
- Praise Him! Praise Him!
Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honour give to His holy name!
Like a shepherd Jesus will guard His children,
In His arms He carries them all day long:
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Tell of His excellent greatness;
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Ever in joyful song!
As I carefully read these verses, I was reminded again how the people of that little church gathered around us when we left. We did not understand the language, but it was a form of God's blessing on our journey. Looking back over that tremendous trip from our homes to the great city of Rome, the coverage of God's care was never amiss, and the prayers of those strangers held us in good stead. Try as we would on subsequent journeys, we never rediscovered that special little church.
Ephesians 5:18b-19 – Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. (NKJV)
When Christians gather together, there is a unity in the Spirit that transcends language. Perhaps, when everyone understands each other, we don't notice it as much. Next time you worship, be aware of that and watch for it.
Prayer: Thank You, heavenly Father for this day. May we be used in some small way which will bring glory to Your name. Indeed, for this day, we claim Your promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.