Sunday, February 12, 2006

sunday evening

Sunday evenings in the parish are a time to think about what has happened, on a day when the whole community gathers together, and then to anticipate that it all begins again tomorrow. This morning was a good one. I had missed the previous Sunday, due to an experience of nausea, originating from a virus, that led to dehydration (one of the other pumc pastor's sons said that I must have a big tank to fill---for those in the blogosphere, I am six feet, seven inches tall). And so there were a number of well wishes, words of welcome, questions about how I was feeling, and a couple of folks who told me that I did not look so well! But the sermon, which I will post soon, went well, based on one of my favorite lections, Isaiah 40. 21-31. I am a week behind in the lectionary, but this one was too good to miss, and it will not reappear for three years.

In a congregation like ours there are lots of subcurrents on a typical Sunday morning, but I am convinced that ours is more fascinating than most: a group of developmentally disabled guys, who compose a wonderful Sunday School class (blog readers from Nashville will be interested to know that their leaders are Russ and Ruth Montfort, formerly of West End UMC there, across from Vanderbilt); a wheelchair-bound young woman who lights up a room with her smile; a group of inquiring members who meet in the small parlor; the two different choirs; a couple of adult Sunday School classes resemble medium size churches in attendance, program and outreach; the senior highs, who returned from a skiing trip in West Virginia; a lunch following the services with an intergenerational Sunday School class, the traditonal potluck at its best; a girl scout cookie table; a couple of grandparents, watching their grandchild while the parents are snowed in up in New York City; and there are smaller, more personal dramas as well. A local congregation, gathered for worship and lots of other reasons, is a dynamic environment, one that I have come to appreciate.

Oddly enough, all week I read church literature that teaches me about the young adult abandonment of liturgical worship. And then, week in and week out, I meet large numbers of young adults on Sundays. Today the children's rooms were crowded. Again we gave thanks for the birth of a child, as we do most Sundays. I am learning to trust what I see and experience, and to place less confidence in the material that I sometimes read. There is a future for worship that is spirited and structured. This is an internal conversation that I sometimes have with myself. On Sunday evenings I am usually grateful for the diversity of ages among those who gather for worship at Providence.

Tomorrow's preparation for a new Sunday begins anew. Of course the texts are chosen, and some of the worship planning has happened. We are moving through the Sundays after the Epiphany, the following Sunday being the Transfiguration, and then we are in Lent. But the sermon is, to be honest, mostly a blank slate. I have read the passage (Mark 2) a couple of times, but I have never preached on it (there is nothing, as preachers often say, in the barrel). I have an idea or two, and the hope is that it will connect, and deepen, and make sense as the week comes along. We'll see.

It is an odd line of work, to spend all week looking toward this gathering, to complete the task, to write and deliver the sermon, and then to begin all over again. Most of the folks will be there again next week, although some will be ill, others will be traveling, still others will be prevented from being present. And yet it will be Sunday, the Lord's Day. For that, I will be grateful, once again. My hope is that at that time I will have something worth sharing. For that I will trust in God, and leave to another day.


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