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I See Context

Sunday worship at Lifespring was much richer than the previous week. The glowing girl I’d noticed last time was leading this time and the female keyboardist was replaced by a man who also shone brightly. I wondered if these two were Gloria and Kenneth. Anton was still there with his guitar, though he’d faded into the background more. This time we did not merely sing. There were Scripture readings woven in among the songs and a time of open prayer, which lifted my soul. This time when Pastor Klein took the pulpit, his message was even more magnificent. It was even punctuated by short choruses of praise that enhanced the message and raised the responsiveness of the congregation. The final song was a soaring anthem that underscored the key points, leaving me sated and excited to put into practice what I’d heard. I sat for several long minutes after the service ended, basking in the brightness and resting in the richness. Ah! This was what worship should be: all-encompassing, all-filling, all exalting Him who was worthy. Once more I was struck that this place was right for me. I sighed with joy and stood again. In that moment I wondered if Jasmine was around but did not see her in the throng. No matter, I thought.

Mat invited me to lunch again, and I realized that this was something that the singles in the church did regularly. I was even surprised to see an older gentleman who could have been my grandfather joining in as we headed off to our local diner. As we walked into the restaurant, I apologized to Mat for my negative attitude the week before.

“Ah, it’s nothin’,” he replied. “Saw you talkin’ to Anton before, so I figured.” He shrugged.

“You ‘figured’ what?” I asked, thinking that I might be catching his meaning, but wanting confirmation.

“Well,” he hedged as we sat down at the big round table the singles usually used, “Anton ain’t the easiest one to chill with. Rubs people the wrong way, you know? People usually get edgy after hangin’ with him.” He shook his head. “Plays a mean guitar though.”

“You do, too, Mat,” the girl sitting next to him interjected.

“Yeah, but after Anton joined the band, what’s the point? I can’t play a lick of what he can, ‘specially since he’s gone pro and stuff.” I raised my eyebrows. Well, that would explain why he was so good.

“Still,” the girl replied, “I can’t see what Pastor Tom and Daoud see in him. He sure knows how suck up to them.” She snickered. “My mom’s from Germany and she says they call people like him a ‘cyclist’: bow to those above you while trampling on those below.”

“Karin,” Mat said with a scowl, “you know we’re not s’posed to talk like that ‘bout them that ain’t with us. It ain’t fit. And Jesus don’t like it, neither.” Karin smirked at him.

“Your Uncle Will’s said the same thing about him, and you know it,” she shot back.

“That’s Uncle Will,” Mat replied. “And he apologized afterwards. He knew it was wrong to say that there. If he and the other leaders wanna talk like that ‘mongst themselves, that’s their business. We’re called to love everyone, even them’s that’s prickly.” Mat might have a homey way of saying things, but he sure knew how to call them, I thought. Now this was a guy I could really like. Peeking around my glasses, I could see the distinct difference in light between Mat and Karin. He blazed and she barely blinked. There were a couple questions I had to ask, since I didn’t know the first names of a few people.

“Who are Daoud and Uncle Will?” I put in.

“Daoud Malik?” Karin replied. “That’s Jasmine’s dad. And I’ve seen you talking with Will Sage. Most of us call him Uncle Will, because of Mat here.”

“Oh,” was all I said. To me he’d always be Dr. Sage. My parents had emphasized respecting people. It was odd to me that the respected leaders of this congregation would be referred to on a first-name basis by my peers, who are much, much younger than them. This was something I’d have to get used to. Karin, however, kept talking.

“You know; I miss having Jasmine around. She’s always so much fun, except when we get into all the spiritual stuff. Ever since she started going with Anton, she’s never around.” She looked at me. “You know Jasmine, right, Sam?”

“We went to high school together,” I replied.

“Yeah, me, too.” She squinted at me. “I don’t remember you, though. When’d you graduate?” I told her the year.

“Okay, you were a grade ahead of me, that’s why I didn’t know you,” Karin went on. “You went to a different church, right?”

“Sort of,” I said, glancing at Mat, who was chatting with the older gentleman that they’d invited to come along this Sunday. Karin caught my glance.

“That’s Carl,” she informed me. “His wife died a few months ago and we’ve kind of taken him under our wing. He’s a single again, after all.” She giggled at that.

During the rest of the meal, I chatted with Karin and Mat and learned a few more things about Lifespring. Karin definitely liked to tell other people’s stories and she did it with a zest that was disconcerting. Mat had to shut her down quite a few times. What I did learn from the discussion was that Anton had only started coming around Lifespring in the past year or so and had quickly become part of the worship team, on account of his inordinate guitar skills. While he’d made a profession of faith, his joining the worship team had resulted in several people quitting, including Mat and Rick. He’d also latched onto Jasmine right after she’d returned from college, making Karin think that they’d known each other there. She also had lots of other juicy details that were not pertinent to the matters at hand, and I came away from the meal, better informed but wanting a bath. Mat invited me to what he called “flock”, which met on Friday evenings, and I said I’d try to come, but that my job as a free-lance photographer often had me doing things on Fridays and Saturdays, so I couldn’t promise to attend all the time.

I went home with my new knowledge and spent some time in serious prayer. While some of it was good, the way I had obtained some of it felt wrong. I picked up my Bible and flipped it open, finding myself in the book of Proverbs. Two lines sprang out at me: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts” (Pr. 18:8 – NIV84).

Oh, no! I thought, realizing that in listening to Karin I was participating in gossip, something that my mother had always stressed was abhorrent to God. I immediately knelt down and asked God for forgiveness. But even as I was still on my knees, I wondered what I should do with the information that I had been given. Would it be right to act upon it? I mulled over that, dreamed about it, and carried it through Monday until I was able to ask Dr. Sage about it.

“That’s a tough one, Sam,” he said. “What you know can’t be unknown anymore, which means you’re responsible for that information. In Proverbs it says not to betray a confidence when arguing with your neighbor (Pr. 25:9-10). God may lead you to act on what you know, but at the same time you should not discuss it with anyone who has no business knowing that. If you get into a situation where you’re tempted to share such information, ask yourself, ‘Will this person be able to act on what I’m telling them? Does this fall in their sphere of responsibility?’ If you can answer ‘yes’ on both of those, it’s probably okay to share the information with them. Otherwise not.”

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