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Points to Ponder: Falling Near the Cross

Points to Ponder
Falling Near the Cross

While out of state for a training seminar, I attended a church where scripture is taught and preached and the Lord is praised in prayer and in music. The music is not a portion of worship that typically speaks to me. Sometimes, the performance is so much the focus that I cannot discern the words and therefore can't grasp the message. But not this time.
At this service, I hung on the words and the choir's whole piece carried a message, but not because of a masterfully perfect performance. Actually, it was the imperfections and errors that made it wonderful.
The male soloist came out from the choir and began a ballad about Simeon in the temple and how he recognized Mary's baby boy as the Christ. Among the many babies being brought for dedication, could this be the One? So the song went on. The man, perhaps in his sixties, had a powerful voice. He projected the message of the song well, as if Simeon himself was saying them. But then, at a point where the song was to ascend toward a crescendo, his voice trailed off as he bowed his head in embarrassment. He forgot his line.
The pianist and the choir kept going, as if hoping the soloist would jump back in to pick up from where they were; but the choir director stopped the music. The whole thing had come apart.
The young director turned to the congregation, and said they had to start over. Again, the soloist led off as before, with strength and heart. The choir joined in beautifully. Then, at the very same point as before, the soloist mumbled off, bowing his head in embarrassment as he lost his lines again. The pastor, who also sings with the choir, stepped out and gave the man his own book so he could find his place. The choir went on. The soloist jumped back in. Then, at another point, he forgot his lines. The director kept leading the choir through the song; the soloist grabbed his line and jumped back in. Again the Simeon account was powerfully rendered. On they went, celebrating the discovery of the Christ in the temple. And again, for a third time, the soloist lost his line and faded out from the song. Wow! The friends who were with me and I felt great empathy. We were silently cheering the guy on. "Come on, you can do it! Hang in there!" But alas, he must have felt like a dismal failure.
At the conclusion of the choir's anthem, the pastor with great wisdom and grace stepped forth from the choir section and had us all turn in our hymnals to sing, "Near the Cross." To me, we had just seen in that soloist an illustration of ourselves. Servants of the Lord with talent and love for God, and with great effort, strive to do well in our work for His glory. And we sometimes fail - sometimes very publicly if not at least very memorably. Who among that church's members will forget what one of their best-known choir members and soloists did? Most I think are forgiving and empathetic. But I imagine he won't forget or be so forgiving of himself. How would you feel?
Haven't we all stumbled or messed up as that man had? We were in Atlanta, training to be professional Walk Thru the Bible seminar leaders. We had much to learn, high standards to keep, and potential opportunities to touch peoples' lives with our teaching of the Bible. And the potential to mess up, too.
But what if I mess up? What if I forget a pertinent detail or fail to make a needed application, or mis-communicate? Our biggest fear in learning to teach the Old Testament had been, "What if I forget one of these key 77 people, places and events which are the seminar lesson plan?" Yeah, it's tough being human. Humans mess up. Even gifted and devoted ones fall on their faces. Then what? Jesus said,
"...lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b)
And where must we be as we strive for perfection and yet fall so very short?
(CENTER)Near the Cross
Fanny J. Crosby (text) and William H. Doane (music)
1. Jesus, keep me near the cross - there a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calv'ry's mountain.
2. Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me;
There the Bright and Morning Star sheds its beams around me.
3. Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day with its shadows o'er me.
4. Near the cross I'll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand, just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.(END CENTER)
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD.

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