At the wedding I attended on Sunday one of the readings was the passage God used to call me into full time ministry. It made me so pleased to remember that day and some of what he has done since. I couldn't have dreamed of any of it. It is all of him, all of grace. He has done immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.
The passage was in Song of Songs chapter 2:
Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love
It was being preached by Terry Virgo at a missions conference. I was there supporting others and expecting nothing for myself (especially not in a sermon on Song of Songs 2!) I don't know exactly the means by which the Holy Spirit used the passage and the preaching to affect me, only that I went in with no expectations, and came out literally trembling and weak at the knees with an unshakeable conviction that I would spend the rest of my life as a preacher. God had never met me like that before, I was scared witless and had no idea of what it meant or how to advance it, only that God would do it.
It is, after all, a very strange passage for God to use to have that effect. Or maybe it isn't. It is a passage about ultimate intimacy and love. I can still remember a good portion of the sermon. Terry chose to apply it to the ultimate intimacy between Christ and the Church and reflected on Christ delighting in us and us in him, the need to come into the shade of Christ and receive from his goodness.
I was 18. That sounded good to me - good enough to seek and ask, certainly. And that, it seems, was all God was waiting for. 24 years later, and having seen him do a lot, I can often still feel like a child, paddling in the shallows of what God wants to do, and playing around the edges of the depth of intimacy he wants with his people. On Sunday it was as if he used the reading to remind to deeply desire that kind of intimacy, to expect all over again that he can still do more than I can imagine and not to think that I have exhausted the supply of surprises he has in store for those who love him.
I wanted to say to the world today that it is amazing to be taken to his banqueting table, delightful to sit in his shade, fantastic to have know God more and more intimately and reassuringly wonderful to know that the banner spread over his people is love. Praise him.