Elder, Ron Drumm met us at the front door with a friendly greeting when we arrived to worship near downtown Tampa at the Henderson Boulevard church of Christ for their second worship service that Sunday morning. We’d made a reservation, so to speak, upon their request to help the elders who were trying everything they could to keep everyone safe according to pandemic protocols.
The members were each wearing a name badge they’d picked up in the foyer --- which is super helpful in a larger congregation, especially for someone like me with serious “name amnesia”. Not only does it relieve some unnecessary awkwardness and embarrassment, everyone badgeless could of course be recognized and welcomed more easily as a visitor.
During announcements, we learned the congregation was reading through the scriptures together in a Bible reading program and were also engaged in what they call “Homegrown Groups” that is, a midweek study--- presently in the book of Acts. We also learned that among a few others placing membership, many new students from the college were back from winter break and had also placed membership, and that they would very soon be photographed to be added to the church family picture wall (a resource also quite helpful for we visitors).
Before the pandemic, the Christians at Henderson Boulevard would meet for three hours: One hour for the Lord’s supper (or “Eulogy”), another hour separated out for various classes and then collectively again for a sermon. Under the present circumstances, they were meeting only for the eulogy portion. On the morning we visited the eulogy was lead by our brother-in-Christ, Ralph Walker.
Brother Walker’s appeal for us during the eulogy was to remember in a deeper way the significance of the message of the cross, and to do so with such a renewed appreciation for Christ crucified, so that we’d all go home changed--- so changed, in fact, that it could be said we are a different person really--- a person with a renewed commitment to live so rooted in the message of the gospel that we are ready to live the rest of our days righteously to the glory of God.
The eulogy focused on how Christ, the Lamb of God, triumphed by turning on its head every device those who crucified Him intended. What they intended to be shameful, Christ used to show how powerful He was in overcoming even this dreadful form of death. He was despised, scorned, forsaken and hated, and He in turn showed us how to return love for hate by bringing peace, that is, a peace between God and those who treated Him so, and also broke down the social barriers with one another so that now we can have a peace and oneness so deep, that no other event could have accomplished it.
He was mocked for the humiliating way in which He was dying, but in the end has received praise both from the Father, but also from those who throughout all eternity will express appreciation for His perfect sacrifice.
And finally, on the cross Christ was blasphemed, but in the end was recognized as both King of kings and Lord of lords. All four ugly designs of the wicked: shame, scorn, mocking and blasphemy, Jesus turned into glorifying Himself and became praiseworthy for all eternity.
“What does this perfect sacrifice challenge you and I to do?” brother Walker asked of us, then added “Ask God for yourselves, then say to Him ‘And now, Lord, what do you want from me? Here am I, send me!’” Amen!
When the young songleader got up, he noted that he’d planned a progression of thought within the hymns he had chosen, starting from knowing Christ, then to worshipping Christ, to examining the sacrifice of Christ, then to exalting Christ as our Savior. He also explained each song would be sung to flow together with very little pause in between, which was a lovely idea and also quite doable given that the hymns were projected on the overhead screens. I appreciated the extra thought it took on the song leader’s part to bring such meaningful coherence to our worship, as well as the heartfelt “Amens'' among the congregation during the slight pauses between our hymns.
At the closing prayer, confession was made to the Father that we want to “be better for You” and everyone was invited to add their “Amen” when they heard the words “And all the glad disciples said …” Amen.
Heads were lifted, bear hugs were exchanged and we lingered quite a while learning from Brother Drumm about the history of the congregation, the gospel outreaches he has been involved in on foreign soils and then from a few other members how from time to time the children’s Bible teachers at the congregation have created backdrops and recruited some of the adults in the congregation to act out in costume the stories of the Bible as a teaching tool for the children. Sounds like quite the project, but I’m certain those Bible stories are not ones the children will soon forget!
3402 Henderson Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33609