“I’m gonna build me a chapel!” –Homer Smith, Lillies of the Field, 1963
The Gospel this morning was from Matthew, chapter 6, and included these verses:
“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (New International Version)
I preached at Hosanna Lutheran church this morning and the presence of the Spirit was palpable. After having mentioned the movie Lillies of the Field in my sermon, the band threw into their soul-stirring praise music the song “Amen”, which was made famous in that same movie. The vocalists had Gospel-rich voices. The other musicians — flute, drums, piano, guitars, tambourine (am sure there were more) absolutely rocked the house. The tiny acolyte girl next to me sang with such gusto we spontaneously laughed in the middle of a verse. Three clearly hurting elderly women limped their way to the altar, one accepting the bread with gnarled arthritic hands. All three were smiling, two through tears. The people who gathered lingered long after the last song and I could have talked to them all afternoon.
Again I was reminded, nothing you do when planning a service can ensure that those present will sense the presence of God. But by faithfully attending to the individuals who come, helping them use their gifts to create the experience, and being mindful of the many needs of the weary saints who come seeking a word of hope and some refuge from life’s storms, God’s presence is often made known in ways that are both unpredictable and undeniable.
Tonight I will watch the Academy Awards as is my custom. Lillies of the Field is the movie for which Sidney Poitier received an Academy Award for his performance as Homer Smith, an itinerant worker, who builds a chapel for a group of nuns and realizes his work is taking on a higher purpose. Some say this was a case in which life imitated art — his was the first Academy Award ever given to an African-American actor.
Twelve years ago, Adam and I watched Lillies of the Field surrounded by moving boxes as we prepared to move so that I could attend seminary. As the credits rolled and we listened to Amen, Adam said to me, “Is that what we’re gonna do, mom? Are we gonna have to actually BUILD the church?” My response was immediate, “God I hope not!”
Hosanna lies just a few miles from Faith, where I am proud to say I was the pastor when the church was built.
(Led before Pilate) amen,
(then they crucified Him) amen,
(but He rose on Easter), amen, amen, amen.
(He died to save us) amen,
(and He lives forever) amen, amen, amen.