Easter Sunday 2014

I don’t think I – or anyone who was there – will ever forget Easter Sunday 2014.

So many people did so much. We’ve thanked the deal-makers, general contractors, interior decorators, bankers, painters, graphic designers and workers. Matt McCoy’s toilet installs. Charles Steger’s landscaping. Matt Hix’s banner hanging. Garrick Voth’s poster hanging. Dave O’Kresik’s window washing. Stephanie Hoover’s needle in a haystack sign finding. Our staff team did so much. Our members did this work with countless hours of volunteer labor. Laura Atherton put up with me and Bobby’s crazy vision and ideas.

1511741_10102190575316397_8900465461864264410_oWe purchased this building on November 1st. So many believed in us and in reclaiming this space and we worked to communicate and then realize this vision of a church in the city that preaches Christ as believable and beautiful. That took late nights and early mornings. It took extra trips and expenses. It took band practice and scaffolding and computer check in and mopping mopping mopping. It took asking for forgiveness for misunderstandings and miscommunications. It took sacrifice, long hours and giving up our gifts, talents, comforts and poverty for something we thought could happen.

It was raining at 7am when Abby and her Factor 110 started to set up for the after church Easter Party. Not good. I told them I thought the rain would hold up, but that wasn’t based on any meteorology reports. I’d stopped obsessing over the weather every five minutes (well, I’d recently stopped). The band came to practice. The extra orchestra members showed up. The set up and clean up team came. The greeters came. April and her CityKids crew came.

Then – people came!

Bobby and I stood outside and greeted everyone as they came up to the building to find a seat. I loved meeting so many family members, all invited to come to City Pres this weekend. I loved meeting those who had heard about us from the articles in the paper or the posters we’d hung. I loved meeting those who had come just to see what was going on.

And I loved meeting the former members of Pilgrim Congregational Church. This had been a vibrant church from its inception in 1920 until it merged and moved in 1980. Those who had grown up in the church especially in its youth group in the 1960s and 1970s had found each other again. They held a reunion to reminisce about old times and catch up on their lives. They’d found Christ in this church. They’d found spouses and been married here. They’d grieved when it was sold. And they prayed that it would return to something again. Their prayers had been answered.

They were there to celebrate with us. They filed in, sat close, and sang loudly. I think they were proud and happy of what they had done and what we had done.

By official count, they added into the final tally of 530 people at our two-year church plant. My breath was taken away at the buzz of activity when I went inside before the service to put my robe on and get ready. Whoa! There were so many people in there! It was time to start, and no one wanted to see me get up there and cry. But that’s how I felt – joy. Joy that others agreed so much that this church should be here, and that Jesus was worth showing up for.

We heard a powerful story of rescue by Heather. She was so brave to tell how Christ had given her hope and freedom through forgiveness and love. We sang hymns both old and new. We read from John 18-20. I tried to preach Christ and him crucified. Though I was mindful that it was hot in there and people were ready to finish, I emphasized that our doubting fearful hearts are seen and transformed by Jesus. That many saw him for who he was then in the midst of suffering – and we can and do now. That his resurrection is the reason we all can have hope. That he is alive and at work. We celebrated in the glorious chaotic Lord’s Supper. We gave our gifts and our poverty to him . We were sent off with a blessing and benediction on continued mission to preach Christ and him crucified and resurrected. We cling to the cross, not to our righteousness or our shame but to his work. The rain held off. The kids had fun. People took family pictures and posted them on Facebook – which I love.

Our work was not in vain. I know I’m tired. We all need a break. We need rest. There are still details to finish up, but it was worth it.

But most of all we rest in Christ’s work. He is not anxious. He is not scurrying around. He is not too busy to save. He is building his church. He is good and he loves his children. He loves City Pres. He loves Oklahoma City. He loves me. That’s something to hope in and rest in.

There’s more to come. More art. More details. More ministry. More music. More mission. More gospel. More rest. More hope. May Jesus be more believable and beautiful.

Headshot 2 Nicole Hager