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  • Jul14Thu

    The Smile of God's Love

    When we play well together as the Church, we become more colourful and joyful July 14, 2011 by Colonel Gwenyth Redhead
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    I have taken the liberty of borrowing the title of a book written some years ago by Joyce Huggett for the title of this blog, as it seems best to sum up the wide variety of experiences I have been processing in the last two weeks since I arrived home after five weeks in Europe.

    In mid-May my husband and I travelled to Hungary, our main purpose being to speak at a retreat for the officers, and others who are giving leadership to the multi-facetted expressions of Salvation Army that are being undertaken by the region.  We had been blessed to work with fellow Canadian officers, Captains Andrew and Darlene Morgan, the leaders of the Region, in the preparations we had made for the sessions ahead of time. 

    They had arranged for our PowerPoint slides to be translated into Hungarian, with the English still included, which was a huge blessing as we would never have guessed what was being displayed otherwise.  The  Hungarian language bears no resemblance whatsoever to English, or to any other language into which we had formerly been translated.  Just 20 of us gathered together in a lovely Christian retreat centre, high in the hills outside Budapest. 

    Despite the language challenges, we felt an immediate connection as the love of Christ in those who gathered smiled at us, and the love of Christ in us smiled at them.  And, as the sessions progressed and connection deepened, we saw the smile of God's love on their faces become bigger and bigger as the wonderful translator with whom we worked not only translated our words, but mimicked our body language, too!  And, yes, the smile of God's love was still present through tears that we shed as we had to bid farewell to one another at the end of the precious time shared together.

    And God's love was still smiling in a setting that could not have been further removed.  Several days later Robert and I found ourselves, along with several thousand others, in the world-renowned Royal Albert Hall in London, England to participate in the celebrations to mark the 120th anniversary of the International Staff Band. The eight staff bands who had gathered provided  incredibly varied offerings of worship in music, evoking a wide range of emotions in players and listeners alike – and this has already been reported in a variety of other forums. 

    But for me, the smile of God's love was most evident when the Japan Staff Band walked onto the platform as part of the afternoon's offerings. Five thousand people stood to their feet and, with prolonged applause  and not a few tears, indicated their support, love and heart ache for all that the Japanese people had suffered during the recent earthquake and tsunami.

    And God's love was definitely smiling again nine days later in a small country town, an hour's drive out of Copenhagen, Denmark. Robert joined a small ensemble from one of the Copenhagen corps bands to provide some of the accompaniment for a truly ecumenical service being held in the grounds of a prestigious boarding school (in the absence of the boarders). It was the day after Pentecost Sunday, which is a public holiday in Denmark, and representatives from every expression of Christian faith in the town had joined together to plan a special service. It was one of the most creative worship services I have ever attended and must have brought a smile of pleasure to our Creator God.

    A beautifully constructed church stood on a table on the platform throughout. It was constructed of Lego, for which Denmark is famed. Towards the end of the worship service there was a dialogue sermon about building the church, and, initially, to my horror, the speakers began dismantling the beautiful church. 

    However, the smile of God's love was very evident on my face when I saw what happened next.  The pieces were put into small baskets and one piece of Lego was given to every single person present, from the youngest child to the oldest adult.  It was an unmistakeable reminder that WE are the church.  My piece now sits on my desk as a continual reminder, and brings the smile of God's love to my face every time I notice it, especially as I learned, while I was in Denmark, that in Danish “le” means “play” and “go” means “well.”

    So, wherever you find yourself during the lazy, hazy days of summer, I invite you to join me to “play well,” and in so-doing bring a smile to God's face and to those with whom you meet.

    colonel-gwen-redheadColonel Gwenyth Redhead is a retired Salvation Army officer. She and her husband, Robert, have held a wide variety of appointments in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. However, her passion has always been to encourage others in creative responses to God through writing of scripts, stories, articles and lyrics (mostly to Robert's music). She has two daughters, Joanne and Corinne, and rejoices that they, too, use the creativity God has given them in ministry.

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