To see previously on mismatched in heaven…see yesterday’s post,https://isplainasjane.com/2014/12/11/mismatched-in-heaven/ .
So, I’m sitting there in the Sunday evening service in this Episcopal church, beginning to reconnect to my breathing mechanism. The sanctuary was beautiful. White walls, rich dark wood. Soft lighting. The smell of incense. I had forgotten how much I love the incense. This space was elegant but unassuming. Wonder what it would be like to preach here. Bet it would be cool. Only preacher geeks can truly appreciate such sentiment. Idle thinking, Jane. Pay attention. You are here to worship God. You certainly put yourself through enough to get here. There must be something in this service you are supposed to hear. Give me ears, Lord! I’m listening.
There were no screens that I could see in the sanctuary. There were actually song sheets! Maybe that’s one reason this space seemed so pleasing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against screens at all. It’s just there was something peaceful and uninterrupted by technology in this place. And, something tangibly beautiful in being physically tethered to the words we were singing. As if we were being anchored in our worship as a body. In between singing we were directed to page numbers in the prayer book in order to continue the liturgy. Liturgy means work of the people. Somehow, because there were no screens, I felt more connected to the work we were doing together, even though it did require me to put on my glasses in order to see. Just one more reminder of my aging human weakness. Just as I am. Here, just as I am.
I liked the message. The priest stood in the middle in front of the table, not behind the pulpit. I don’t like to stand in a pulpit. Feels like the hotbox. Feels isolated. Feels like there is a barrier between everyone else in the room and me. The way I see it is, even though it’s my voice and personality in play when I’m preaching, the hope is fresh encouragement from God’s Spirit and we are all hearers together. The closer I can be to my fellow hearers the better. So, I immediately felt connected to this priest as he began his homily, regardless of his reasoning for speaking from where he did. Homily. I like that word. Seems humble. Episcopalians use the word homily a lot and their pulpit is on the left side of the table. Homilies are shorter, about twelve minutes or so. The theology (as I was reminded that evening) is that, while some traditions center on the preaching of the Word, the Episcopalian worship centers on the table. I love that too. Maybe there would be less fighting and division in churches today if we would linger longer at the table in fellowship instead of hurling chapter and verse, limitless words, at one another in our quest to determine who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s in and who’s out.
As I said, I liked the message. I liked the way the priest was open to the in-breaking love of God and his intention in sharing that good news. It was inspired but down to earth. I could sense the love he had for his congregation and their reciprocal feelings for him. I felt refreshed and encouraged to carry on for another week. But no lightening bolt had hit me. I was still a little confused on why I had felt so compelled to come to this service this evening. I’m not sure if I was expecting a breakthrough or a breakdown, but I had expected something major to happen. As we moved into the confession and communion liturgy I began to feel things get a slight bit more intense. I thought maybe God would have a few things to say to me about my absence. I might have thought I was experiencing church. The Lord Almighty might have a whole different opinion on that. There is one more thing I realized I had missed about Episcopalian worship. The kneeling. There’s just something so humbling and awe inspiring about kneeling before God (although I confess I do appreciate the thick padding on those kneeling benches). Everyone struggling and creaking to get down there, the young much less than the old. Our burdens get heavier to lay down as we get older, I guess.
But I knelt and I prayed. God I love you so much. I don’t often get it right. But I do love you. I know I’ve changed the way I look at things. The way I look at scripture. The church. My place in all this. But I love you more than ever so You are going to have to let me know if I’m totally off base. If I’ve fallen from your grace. Please don’t let go of me. I’m yours. Strange, this would be the time for me to get emotional. It’s in my nature to do so. But I didn’t. All felt calm.. I felt peace. When it was my turn, I padded (because there is nothing else to do in socks) down to the front to receive communion. I like the idea of receiving communion instead of taking communion. It removes the notion of striving off the table, so to speak. This whole beautiful life with God and one another comes to us as a gift. To be received with open hands and hearts. I was especially grateful that we were not kneeling to receive communion, but rather standing. I wasn’t at all sure I could have kept my ill fitting booties on through a kneel down and get up. I had humiliated myself enoughfor one night. Grace abounds.
And so the service ended. Simple, sweet, beautiful service. I was glad I had come. For no particular reason other than it was good worship and I felt a deep and quiet peace. I waited for my opportunity to talk to my friend and to tell her and her husband how wonderful worshiping with them was. We visited for a few minutes as everyone else milled out of the sanctuary, filled with spiritual sustenance for the week ahead. Happy contented Sunday evening sounds. We were standing in the center aisle when the priest walked by, returning from greeting folks. He was carrying the incense censer, which held a soft lingering fragrance. He was relaxed and open in his demeanor. My friend spoke out to him that she wanted him to meet me. She said something about she and I working together in the past, and about me being a preacher. With this, this priest shook my hand and asked me if I was looking for a gig (I think that was the word!). I laughed and said that actually I was in between gigs (I hope that is what he had said!). The next two minutes are a blur, but the long and short of it is this. He invited me to be a guest preacher in a few weeks and asked if I would be interested in doing so once a month for this service as an outside voice.
BOOM! Lightening indeed.
Out of the blue God calls us. Each and everyone of us. That calling is irrevocable. Just like God’s love. And you just never know what it will look like. It might not make sense at all. A real mismatch from heaven.I guess that’s why we just gotta keep showing up.
It is my hope that this is a story that will continue. I’ll keep you posted.
May you experience the joy of the in-breaking jolt of God’s love today and every day.
Something to chew on…