Not Alone

     “The watch feed went
dead and Pete spun on his heel to march the other direction. He paced up the
plane toward the cockpit, his features set and his heart heavy. Fifteen pairs
of eyes kept glancing at him (seven of their rescuees were children, whose eyes
were plastered on the tv, as they avidly devoured a Disney movie Pete had
flipped on for them). The wiry old Akim, pastor of the small flock, stood up
and offered the young man a smile as Pete spun around again at the cockpit
     ‘Come, brother,’ Akim
said in Arabic, laying a hand on Pete’s shoulder. ‘Come, kneel with me and we
will pray for your Jojo. And this brother you speak of.’ Pete blinked at him
for a moment, obviously having to recall his mind to be able to understand the
man. Akim knelt, his hand still on Pete’s shoulder, and the Parabaloni dropped
gratefully beside him. Pete bowed his head with this old man he hardly knew,
and let his overwhelmed thoughts speed out to the God Who knew all his sorrows
and cares, however weighty or petty they might be, and listened with intense
gratitude as Akim lifted up Jojo and Yousef, speaking the words Pete couldn’t
quite bring himself to say out loud. Another strong hand landed on Pete’s shoulder. Then
another, and another. After a moment he found himself surrounded by this small
band of brothers and sisters, as they all knelt on the soft carpet and prayed
for the Aziz family. Pete was overwhelmed. He let himself kneel there, and
found every prayer was one of intense thankfulness for this gift of united hearts
under Jesus’ cross. He only knew a few scattered names from this underground
church. But they spoke his heart for him when he had no more heart to speak it
himself, asking for salvation for the Aziz household, for safety for Jojo, for
deliverance for Yousef’s soul…Pete let himself be overwhelmed and didn’t try
and fight it.”

 –Scene from Chapter 4 of Running with SJ
I keep communion cups. Not from every time I partake of the
Lord’s table, but I do keep them fairly often. I sit them on the dresser in my
closet, and every so often my eye catches them. A little stack of old plastic
cups. Most of them are from my church, obviously. But some are from congregations
across the states, that I’ve had the opportunity to join of a Sunday. When I
pull open my closet door, looking for something else, and see that junky stack
in the corner it reminds me of two very beautiful things.
First, a warm joy fills me, speaking of a grace showered on
my soul, a Father bringing an unworthy daughter to His table, and an
unspeakable hope that flutters in my heart and tells me I will reach the
marriage table of the Lamb. He has called me His own. “My God, my God, why have
you accepted me[1]!”
my heart cries out again when I spy that little stack of cups, and an
overwhelming joy tells me that Jesus loves me. Like the old children’s song. He really loves me! He
calls me again, and again, and again, to sup with Him. To remember His blood
and broken body, given up willingly for me at the cross. “I am the Good Shepherd:
the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep[2].”
One of the beloved flock of God Himself, trained to recognize His voice, and
called over and over to His own table! It is a beautiful reminder. But not the
only thing that comes to mind when I see those old cups.
Someone gives me those cups. A brother passes it to me, and
bids me come to the table with him. A sister sits behind me, head bowed in
prayer, silently offering up praises and petitions to the same Father I’m praying
to as I sit, cup in hand. When my eye catches that strange stack of cups, it
brings to mind the communion of the saints. All the people around me, praying
to the same great God, Who not only deigns to hear our prayers, but commands us
to bring our cares and sorrows and joys and delights to Him. Every time I take
communion, in any truly Christian church around the world, I am surrounded by
people with the same heart. Very divergent lives, and incredibly variant
personalities, but people with the same destination and the same source to
their joy. People with the same Father. It is a family table that I gather
round of a Sunday morning.
     “Jojo Aziz had left
home with the knowledge she might never again have a home in this world, at
least not for years and years…And here she was, two weeks after landing in the
West, surrounded by family and friends, all of whom she had a deeper bond with
than any outward observer might guess. It wasn’t just that they had stepped in
and risked their lives to save hers, and shared a rousing adventure with her
already. That helped. But it was more that these three gathered here were the
right kind of men. They were men who had been taken in their broken sinfulness
and had their very natures twisted back round till they were right. Right with
God, right with their fellow men, and right with themselves. Just like she had.
It wasn’t a comfortable thing to admit you were fallen and broken from birth.
But the aftermath of throwing yourself on a heavenly Father’s love, admitting
nothing but grace could make you right again, was remarkable.
     As Jojo Aziz sat in
that mountain meadow, laughing and listening to these three Christian brothers,
she realized being made right did more than just save her eternally. It gave
her this. Fellowship, in a deep, real way, with people from all backgrounds.
She was flung into more than just her Father’s arms, she was flung into a new
family. Algy’s greeting when he had first met her came back to her mind, and a
broad smile spread over Jojo’s lovely face, though her eyes were tellingly
moist. No matter where she went now, the world over (though some of them might
be hidden away), there would be someone with this connection, someone she had a
deeper bond with than mere common likes and dislikes. And at the end of her
race she would come to a world where everyone had that deep bond and joy, with
all tears wiped away and her Father’s arms opened wide…Algy’s words rang true
in her mind, and Jojo whispered them to herself as her eyes rose to take in the
rocky cliff side, a sprinkling waterfall tumbling down it, masking the
Parabaloni HQ from obvious sight, and listened to the swift conversation and
laughter of her brother and new friends.
     ‘Welcome home.’”

– Scene from Chapter 10
of Running with SJ
It is more than mere sentiment when we call our fellow Christians
“brothers.” Christ has united us in a real, deep way. “So we, being many, are
one body in Christ, and every one members one of another[3].”
We are not alone as we walk this earth. It is both a highly encouraging thing,
and a convicting thing. How many of your fellow Christians did you even say
hello to in church this morning? How many names do you know in your own church
body? How many families going to your church have you had over for dinner? How
many have you bothered to ask, ‘What can I pray for you this week?’ We are
supposed to be a body under Christ. We are meant to be working together. To be
building each other up, and even to be helping in the material ways. Bring a
meal. Offer a night of babysitting. Maybe just take the time and effort for a
good conversation before you run off for lunch after church on a Sunday; you
may never know how much a warm hug and honest interest in a brother or sister’s
life may mean to them.
Never think you walk alone.
Christian, every time you come to the communion table,
remember your Savior first. That is why you’re there. To commemorate His shed
blood and broken body, His love for you. But take a moment to look around you. So
many souls, so many personalities, so many lives! All of them intertwined with
yours in the ultimate goal of building a kingdom for this Savior Who died for
you. Thank God, we do not fight this war alone.  
“For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia[4]!”

[1] “Mystery
of Mercy” by Andrew Peterson
John 10:11
Romans 12:5
[4] “For
All The Saints” by William H. How

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