“The world is changed since the last time that we got together on the Lord’s Day,” Reformed University Fellowship area coordinator Britton Wood told Covenant Presbyterian Church yesterday.
None of the changes were good. A week ago, 28-year-old Audrey Hale shot through a locked door to enter Covenant’s Christian school, then shot and killed three adults and three children. One was 9-year-old Hallie, the only daughter of lead pastor Chad Scruggs.
The congregation gathered Sunday in the evening in the sanctuary of nearby Christ Presbyterian Church, just hours after the funeral of 9-year-old William Kinney was held in the space. The day before, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak’s funeral was held at Christ Presbyterian; on Wednesday, the funeral for head of school Katherine Koonce will be held there.
White candles were lit, and somber music came from a string quartet dressed in black.
“Some things are different today, but some things are the same,” Wood said. “The world has changed, but our king still reigns.”
Some things are different today, but some things are the same. The world has changed, but our king still reigns.
He spoke to a room packed with not only Covenant’s displaced congregation, but The Covenant School employees and families, first responders, and family coming from out of town.
Wood told them that when he first started doing campus ministry, he assumed that confession of sins would be more difficult for students than offering assurance of pardon. “But assurance is the hard part,” he said. “Is there really atonement? Is there really resurrection? Does Jesus really save us? Is it really all a free grace? That’s the hard part.”
He led the service, while Billy Barnes, Covenant’s executive pastor, preached the sermon. Barnes pulled from the story of the Emmaus road in Luke 24:13–35 and from The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis.
The two men walking from Jerusalem couldn’t understand the events of Holy Week, Barnes said. Neither could Uncle Andrew understand the world of Narnia or the words Aslan was roaring to wake it up.
“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are,” Barnes said, quoting Lewis.
“From where Jesus was standing, his kingdom had come,” he said. “He had gone into Jerusalem—it was Passover. They had just celebrated sprinkling the blood of the lamb over the doorposts. . . . He said, ‘My blood is going to give that blood substance.’ He had just done that. He had just purchased the salvation of all of his children—of us—but [the disciples] couldn’t hear that.”
God has given us to one another to speak the truth.
Over the past week, “we’ve all heard a lion roar,” Barnes told the congregation. “We’re here to tell you today that God is in control. And that he’s sovereign.”
He recalled a prayer meeting held in Nashville last week, where attendees stood up over and over to read Scripture’s truths to each other.
“Finally we just stopped—it could’ve gone all night,” he said. “It was the most encouraging thing that could have happened—just to hear the truth spoken over you. And that’s what Jesus did. He came alongside these people—they had no idea who he was—and he just spoke the truth to them. We’re all on the road to Emmaus together right now, and we’re all longing to hear, ‘Narnia, awake.’ And God has given us to one another to speak the truth.”
Barnes reinforced this with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: “The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. . . . The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”
In a service filled with more than a dozen songs—from instrumental to congregational singing, from “God Our Hope in Ages Past” to “He Will Hold Me Fast”—Barnes ended with a quote from Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?”
His voice broke on, “But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do. Do you wish that you could see it all made new? We do.”
The service ended with communion, and a final encouragement from Britton Wood.
“One of the Scruggs boys knows how to really get under my skin,” he said affectionately. “I’m a Bama fan, and almost every time he sees me says, ‘Mr. Britton, Mr. Britton, let’s watch a replay of the Tennessee-Alabama game. . . . It’s got scary moments, but he doesn’t sweat the scary moments because he knows the end. When you know how it ends, the scary moments lose their power.”