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From the Pastor's Desk

Don't Call It a Comeback . . . or "The Day the Lights Went Out"

Posted by Pastor Stephen Baum on

The events of February 5, 2017 will likely maintain legendary status in the National Football League for decades to come. The dynastic New England Patriots trailed the favored Atlanta Falcons 28-3 late in the third quarter. Most thought a Falcons win was all but assured. It was at that point that the Patriots did what the Patriots do—they played great football. After their lone touchdown in the third quarter, the Falcons would not score again, and the Patriots would go on to score 31 unanswered points to completely overturn the momentum of the game and win their fifth Super Bowl in thirteen years by a score of 34-28. Many Patriot fans and those in the organization would soon find themselves fond of the saying, “Don’t call it a comeback.” That is to say, the Patriots may have overcome a 25-point deficit, but it was no “comeback” because they neither considered themselves out of the game, nor a win out of reach. “Don’t call it a comeback—we’ve been right here all along!”

Last Sunday morning, July 15, as the members of First West were coming to the close of the first worship song of the morning service the lights went out—and stayed out. A transformer failure in the area robbed a large section of our neighborhood of power for several hours. But wonderfully, though the lights went out, the church kept singing. We propped open some exterior doors to let some sunlight in, sang with unamplified guitar and voices, and I preached without a microphone from Acts 14. Aside from the lights being out, it was a fairly normal Sunday. Except, if you were there, you probably noticed that our time of worship wasn’t quite like any other Sunday. It seemed sweeter. Deeper. Somehow more real. Those who were in attendance have described it to me in words like, “powerful,” “amazing,” “wonderful,” “awesome.” And it was.

Sunday, July 15, 2018 is a day in the life of our church to be celebrated and remembered. Though the lights went out, the church carried on. Christ was exalted, the Gospel was preached and as a family of believers we were edified by our worship of God around the Word of God. But as much as it might seem like something special happened that morning and as much as we may find ourselves in awe at the worship that was shared, I want all the more to say, “Don’t call it a comeback!” What we shared in worship when the lights went out was not a victorious moment for our church when God did something unexpected. It was a victorious moment for our church because God did among us what he stands ready to do each week—only this week he helped us by taking some things out of our line of sight and unstopped our ears to see and hear and engage with Him in a fresh way. 

When the lights went out the lyrics for our worship songs disappeared off the screens and immediately we all began to actively search our minds for the words to the songs that we knew we should already know so well. As the amplification and electric instruments were muted, we found our voices the best instruments in the room and used them to fill our worship center with songs of praise to God. Several have commended Pastor Danny for not skipping a beat when the power went out—he just carried on leading us in worship—and for his leadership I am incredibly grateful. His steadfastness, however, was not because of some special gifting of God that morning, however, but because he had spent the six days previous praying and practicing and preparing for worship on Sunday morning. By the help of the Holy Spirit, whether or not he knew it, Pastor Danny was preparing all week long for the power to go out, just like he does every week. And we sang with mindful attention and heartfelt enthusiasm just as we ought to every week. It was wonderful!

When the power went out, I lost the use of the microphone I use in preaching. It is a blessing to have amplification for preaching, both for my voice and those who are listening. Yet, without electricity I had to preach using only what volume and projection I had naturally available to me. You who were there had to tune your ears more keenly, listen a little more sharply, and pay closer attention to the Word as you read out of your Bibles and not off a screen and followed along in printed worship guides without the aid of visually projected sermon points. It is true, I preached louder than I do most weeks, and you who were there likely saw how the volume increase also aided the increase of my passion for God’s Word that morning. And while I am grateful to God for preserving my voice, and genuinely appreciative of the many encouragements I have received from church members this week—in truth, God had me ready to preach that sermon that passionately on Friday afternoon. Every week I strive to prayerfully prepare to faithfully preach the Word of God to the people of God in the power of the Spirit of God. And you prayed for me and listened to the Word of God with all the fervency that you ought each week. It was powerful! 

Throughout the history of Israel in the Old Testament there are countless moments and places where God’s faithfulness and preservation of Israel are memorialized with piles of stones or altars to the Lord. Those monuments were not meant to merely remember what God did “that one time,” but to remember what God can be trusted to do all the time. God was to be always trusted to deliver Israel from slavery and oppression just like he did in Exodus. God should always be trusted to dwell among his people when they obey him and trust him just as he did in the Tabernacle and Temple. Sunday, July 15, 2018 is a day for First Baptist West Albuquerque to memorialize in our hearts and minds. I pray that it will be a day that lingers in the memory of our congregation for many years. But I do not want it to be a day that we remember as something God did “that one time,” but as a reminder of what God stands ready to do all the time—of what he stands ready to do every time we prayerfully prepare and persevere in truly engaging our hearts and minds in worship.

My beloved church family, remember July 15, 2018: the day the lights went out. Remind one another of it often. Tell others who were not there all about it. Praise and glorify our mighty God who moved among us that day and continues to move among us even now. Let us learn from that day to engage our hearts and minds fully in singing whether or not the lights are on. May we weekly give our whole attention to the Spirit inspired Word of God as it is preached each week. But don’t call that day unique. Don’t call it unexpected. Don’t call it a comeback. Because God’s been at work the whole time!


My Love in Christ,

Pastor Stephen