The hall is quiet except for the crackles on the roof and a few foot steps here and there. I look at the empty blue seats at the pew. At the back of most of them is the inscription ‘TBC’ followed by a number. Those without the inscription have remains of what must have been the label. They have been well arranged, as they usually are every Sunday morning when I enter the hall then filled with saints. There is nothing eventful about the hall. Nothing grand.
There are no flowing drapes of color blocked importance at the pulpit. There is not even a number of stairs running along the whole pulpit base lined with a furry red carpet, demanding that you take off your shoes because the ground is holy. The fluorescent bulb that lights up the pulpit is not even colored. There is zero drama.
A few steps in front of me is ‘TBC 95’. TBC 95 is stacked below ‘TBC something’. Maybe 150. Or 200. I cannot tell.
I wonder for a short minute who will be seated on TBC 95 tomorrow. Maybe it will be their first day among the saints who fellowship in this building. Maybe not.
My eyes are drawn to the wall on which hymns and sermon notes are usually projected. Cream wall. I try to trace the lines around which the wonderful lyrics that have been passed down through ages by saints are usually encased in blue digital genius. I fail. Somehow my mind is unable to imagine the size of the projected power-points. No surprise there.
I can yet clearly see in my mind lines from hymns that have been projected there in.
And can it be, that I should gain…
A debtor to mercy alone…
One by one they unfold. I take them all in. I begin to ponder some of them and somehow my line of thought leads me to John Newton’s ‘I asked the Lord that I might grow…‘. A hymn I have never seen projected therein. A hymn I only met yesterday.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face
‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray;
And he, I trust, has answered prayer:
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
It hits me yet again how many times I have prayed to grow in faith and grumbled when trials and suffering come my way. I shudder.
I think about TBC 95. And 81. And 40. Will he come on time tomorrow? Will she be discouraged as she comes into the building? Will he listen to the sermon with indifference? Will her heart be charged to live a holy life when she leaves the hall tomorrow? Will he encourage a troubled soul? Will her smile warm a lonely heart as her gaze directs its eyes to the comfort of the cross?
Will the fellowship among brethren be pure and affectionate, foreshadowing only but slightly the glories of the life to come? Or will there be nothing Christ-like in the gathering?
Footsteps. They draw closer. They pass by. They sound like flip-flops. Old flip-flops in a hurry. Blue seats. Blurry.
Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
O that I may seek my all in Christ…
TBC 95 is staring. It is as if he wants to know if I am prepared for tomorrow. I stare back. It is rude to stare. Even for chairs.