Sandra Van Opstal led Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urbana09 and Urbana12 worship, developing a unique feast of languages, rhythms, instruments, and voices within her teams so that worship participants taste God’s world in their worship of him. She believes that worshipers experience more of God’s fullness when they not only sample but sit at the banquet of God’s cultures made evident through how one is led into worship in God’s presence. Additionally, she recognizes that worship at this banquet table of God’s many peoples and cultures expressed in song, dance, and instruments can catalyze disciples of Christ for mission to proclaim the fullness of God’s good news—bringing salvation to soul and body, to spiritual darkness and physical poverty.
Relying on both of these dynamic elements in worship leadership, Sandra invited friends from her Chicago community to begin the first night of worship in song. Singing in Spanish, English, Korean, and Mandarin, varying volumes of voices joined together as each adjusted to another language or robustly belted out in confidence from one’s first language. Van Opstal’s prayer, “Let us see a vision of truth and live into that truth” began to come to life as consultation participants glimpsed into the Kingdom of God through song.
The worship feast only grew richer and the call to a vision of trust more robust as we received the Word from Jeannette Yep, Pastor of Global & Regional Outreach at Grace Chapel, Lexington, MA. Preaching from the exhorting text of Philippians 1:27-30, Yep dissected the text to reveal the call to live worthy of both heavenly and earthly citizenship. She called worshipers to set aside inconsistency and hypocrisy, and to express unity and truth for the gospel. Yep powerfully reminded everyone that Christians are not called to fight against anybody or anything but to fight for the faith and for truth. She suggested that the two communities called together for this conference might unite for immigration reform, for just wages, for one another’s communities when theological or political exclusion occurs, and for the faith through “conversations and budding friendships.”
Such expressed unity is developed with steadfastness, and can only be initiated by the Holy Spirit. It comes from God’s doing in our midst, not the result of our effort. It is also a unity born of shared affections for one another, with mutual interest and love for each other’s communities. Additionally, unity as Paul describes takes action, as Yep continued, “Acquiescence is not unity. Consent is not cooperation. Approval is not partnership.” For churches represented at the HANA consultation to grow together and with one another, unity, cooperation, and partnership are needed. Communities must also be unified in the faith, in going out with the faith, and in agreeing what the gospel is. Lastly, Yep, led the gathered community to reflect on the unity in suffering that Paul makes clear is a privilege to do for Christ.
Suffering, Yep continued, occurs in economic dislocation, unjust policy, conflict inside and outside of HANA congregational contexts, prejudice, racism, and brokenness. “By journeying into the pain and brokenness God has called us to be with, we are transformed and we become more and more like Christ, as we suffer with our friends.”
Yep concluded by encouraging attendees to not compare degrees of oppression and suffering, but rather to acknowledge “genuineness, uniqueness, and complexity” of tapestry of stories God has woven together in the two communities. She called everyone to recognize each community’s unique and multifaceted role in God’s Kingdom work. Finally, she charged everyone to keep in step with God’s Spirit as it is doing a new and fresh work in and through immigrant church communities.
Van Opstal’s invitation to worship a multifaceted, creative God prepared hearts and minds to receive Yep’s call to serve this glorious God together as his unique and distinct peoples. Yep’s words called those gathered to count the cost of kingdom citizenship and Christian unity by recognizing the role of suffering together and living worthy for Christ in the midst of brokenness and oppression so that the faith and the faithful may in the end stand firm side by side.