A Little Glimpse of Heaven
posted on August 16
By Rev. John Kalz
Like so many other United Methodists, I’ve been praying for years that God would renew our church: send new people, refresh our spiritual lives, fill our pews, and reinvigorate our sense of mission. God has been busy answering the prayer, just not in the way I, or the people at Buechel United Methodist Church, had expected! As we’ve been praying “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” God has answered us by showing us the vision of heaven we see in Revelation 7 - people of all nations, languages, and ethnicities worshipping together around the throne of God. God has sent us new brothers and sisters from around the world, immigrants and refugees in our city, as answer to our prayers for renewal.
Louisville is one of the leading cities in the United States for the resettlement of refugees: there is a welcoming environment, plenty of jobs, and affordable housing. The majority of immigrants and refugees that come to Kentucky are from places where Christianity is growing, strong, and passionate. We’ve been blessed to have new persons join our congregation from Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, many of whom were already Methodist, and who have brought with them the spiritual vitality so evident in the church in those areas.
Now, on a typical weekend, worship with our Buechel UMC family is done in at least four languages. Our English-language service is interpreted into Swahili, three weekend worship services are held in Spanish, as well as a service in Burmese. In addition to native-born Americans of different races, we have members born on five continents. From Liberia to Cuba and Colombia to Congo, God has sent us new brothers and sisters. Worship attendance has doubled in the past two years, as we’ve welcomed the people who are the answers to our prayers for renewal, which God has sent us from around the world.
We have taken hold of Jesus’ vision for the Temple in Mark 11:17, where he declares that “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” In doing so, we’ve sought to welcome all our neighbors to worship, and instead of insisting that they become just like us, we’ve sought to accommodate them with what they need so they can truly be at home in our church. We’ve hired staff and accepted appointments of local pastors so we can better reach new, diverse people. We’ve been willing to hear new songs in worship, try new things, and share hugs across boundaries. We’ve started new services in new places to meet people where they are. We’ve tried to say “yes” to God’s vision, instead of insisting on our own.
In worship, with the whole world around us, we’ve been blessed to get a little glimpse of heaven. We’ve caught Jesus’ vision, and it has changed us at Buechel United Methodist Church. There are young families, lots of children, and the joy of the God who surprises us by enlarging our family in a way we never expected. At the end of each of our English-Language services, we join hands in a circle around the Sanctuary and sing the hymn Bind Us Together. The words, written by Bob Gillman, are our prayer, “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together in love. There is only one God, there is only one King; there is only one body, that is why we sing.” Singing, praying together, we can look on the faces of sisters and brothers from many cultures, and know that what unites is God.
This what we profess as Christians: there is only one God. And if there is only one God, then it is only right that all God’s children be the church together, one body in the one God. We’ve seen the blessing of being the church together at Buechel UMC, and we invite our fellow United Methodists in the Heartland District to try it in their congregations as well: make a concentrated effort to reach the diverse people around you, and see if your church doesn’t begin to look more like heaven.