But we rallied and made it to church on time and, as always, I was so happy to be there once we made it there, although that didn't stop me from complaining on the phone to Sarah on the way about going to church with four kids at their scheduled bedtime.
There was only childcare for preschool tonight, so Ava came into service with me and Vivi and our friends, and as our pastor spoke, she flipped around wildly in her bible, tapping the person next to her on the shoulder regularly and asking which book we were reading from. Then she would tear off a tiny piece of paper from the larger sheet she had with her, and mark the page as she tried to follow along. It was adorable.
Out pastor walked through all the events of that day, 2000 years ago, through every thing that happened as Jesus was crucified. Then we had the opportunity to write any sins we wanted to confess on a piece of paper and walk to the front of the sanctuary, where we could literally nail them to a cross.
It was an overwhelming thing, to see all those slips of paper nailed on that rough hewn cross, to hear the hammers pounding in the silence, impossible not to imagine Jesus himself being nailed to the cross for our sins, not to think of the way He was beaten and ridiculed, challenged and scorned. Impossible not to think of what He went through for every single one of us.
It's a humbling thing, sometimes, to think about how Jesus gave up everything so that we could be alive in Him, and yet it's so easy to put off being the best Christians we can be until tomorrow. He gave the greatest sacrifice ever, and yet we have the freedom to say we'll pray later, or read the bible when things calm down, or share our faith with that guy down the road next time.
It's kind of like how when we do that bargaining thing...we pray and say God, if you'll just fix this, then I promise I'll be a better person, I'll be a better wife, I'll be a better mom/sister/friend. I'll go to church every Sunday, I'll reach out to kids in my community, I'll do it all if you'll just do this for me.
The thing is, though, that He already did the biggest thing ever for us, and we should be doing all those things we bargain for anyway. We should be doing them because we've been given the most amazing gift possible, but being the fallen, fallible human beings we are, we almost always take it for granted and get caught up in every day life.
One of the kids I used to teach in youth group who went onto college was leading the music tonight, and just before we sang amazing grace, he told us a story about John Newton, the man who wrote the hymn. John Newton was the captain of a ship that made it's money buying and selling slaved. He had a laundry list of bad deeds a mile long. And yet, he became saved and later became a minister.
Ethan paused at the end of the story, and then he went on to say that when John Newton died, his last words, the very last words he spoke, resonated strongly with him. Then he told us what they were, and I have to say that he's completely right...John Newton's last words are kind of amazing. (No pun intended!)
As John Newton lay dying, his last words were these:
"My memory is nearly gone. But I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior!"
It kind of sums it all up...we're all great sinners. We all fall short. But greater than our sins can ever be...bigger than our faults and shortcomings...bigger than every one of us, apart or together, is God. And He's already held up his end of the bargain. He's already given up his Son so that we could have everlasting life as long as we want it and accept Him as our Savior. So if you haven't thought about how you could hold up your end lately...
Well, maybe now's the time.
We're all going to fall short, but I think we're all capable of getting an E for effort if we try.