The gate of grace

Sometimes I just need to be reminded of the bigger picture.

On my drive down to Washington, D.C., today, I spent the time reflecting on how hard it has been to connect to local churches I’ve attended. I can’t explain the trouble except to diagnose myself with Square Peg Syndrome. The three hours of prayer and silence helped to settle my agitated spirit.

When I arrived, I was pleased to find that my hotel is in Chinatown.  I hadn’t known that when I booked the room. It’s not a big neighborhood – really just a few blocks of restaurants – but its gate grabbed my attention. It’s called the Friendship Arch. And it got me thinking about the worldwide church.

In many of the places I’ve visited internationally, I’ve worshipped with fellow believers. In the Bahamas on our honeymoon. In a village church in Jordan, where I didn’t understand a word of the Arabic service. In the mountains of Guatemala. In a large urban church in Guangzhou. In downtown Edinburgh. On the outskirts of Manila with a following potluck dinner that I'll just describe as memorable.

Language and culture has differed. But the unifying experience of the love of Jesus has been constant. Grace is the flame that warms true fellowship.

Looking at the gate as the sun sinks, I think of Isaiah 60:11:

            Your gates shall be open continually;
                         day and night they shall not be shut,
            that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations,
                        with their kings led in procession.

In our era of politically polarized nations, it’s hard not to think of cultural differences as dividers. But someday, those variations will add to the richest mix imaginable. Drawn through the Gate into an eternal throng, cultures and languages will be like orchestral instruments – each unique in its sound but tuned to the same pitch of praise.

It’s just the big picture I needed.

Father God, thank you for this gate that came unexpectedly into my life today. And thank you for how it encourages me. Even at this moment, millions of people across the globe are coming to you through the gate of your Son. Help us to keep this big picture of your global church in our hearts and minds.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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