The Voice of an Angel
It was bitterly cold this past Sunday as Mary Lou and I made our way to the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta for their 8:30 Communion Service held in the Winship Chapel. The wind chill was 15 degrees with a brisk wind and a smattering of snow over the ground.
First Presbyterian was founded in 1848. It is adorned with massive stained glass windows and has been the church home of many of Atlanta’s most famous and influential families over the past 167 years. Perhaps its most famous member was Robert Woodruff, the man who built Coca-Cola into the worldwide giant it is today.
Like many grand inner city churches, this church faces many challenges. The church ministers to the homeless and destitute while it wrestles with all the many issues that face traditional mainline churches today.
They begin each Sunday morning with a breakfast for the homeless. The meal is followed by the service we attended, held in a small, but strikingly beautiful chapel. The pews slowly filled with an assortment of people; some wearing old tattered clothes and some wearing the latest in fashion.
It was obvious that we were in a group of people from very different places that had simply come to worship together. Worship is just what we did.
As the organist played a prelude on the chapel pipe organ, a homeless man in the row in front of me fidgeted as he searched for something in his pockets. Finally finding the loose coins in his pocket, he got up and walked to the altar where he put his money in the collection plate. I could not help but think of the story of the widow’s mite as I watched him shuffle back to his seat.
We listened to the story of Jacob and Esau. How different those two twins were. Theirs was a story of betrayal, reconciliation and ultimately grace. It was a fitting message prior to the invitation to the Lord’s Table for communion.
With the table open to all, everyone in the chapel came forward to receive the gifts that God has given to His people. Standing with people like me, and people very different than me, I was reminded that we are all the same in God’s eyes and that His love has no boundaries.
We sang a hymn following the communion. While the sounds from the organ filled the room, there was another sound that captured my attention. A man behind me sang the words to the old hymn, “Just as I Am”. The voice was perfect, so pure and clear that it could have been the voice of an angel. Somehow, I knew before I looked that the voice belonged to one of the homeless men sitting behind me.
The message by the minister was truly inspiring, but for me the message was seeing a man give the last of his treasure for God’s work in that church and hearing a man using a voice that only God could have given him. All of this while some of the poorest and richest of Atlanta worshipped side by side in one of the oldest churches in the city.
Open your eyes and listen with your heart. The voices of angels are all around us.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com