Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jeremiah Writ Small

It is Sunday afternoon, a few minutes past 12. I have just returned from the church where I went to confirm to my own mind, yet once again, that we did the right thing in canceling worship on account of the snow and ice that have turned our parking lot into a "slip-n-slide."

We did, but it is a strange thing, is it not, that phrase: "canceling worship." And of course we did not do that, could not, at least not in any ultimate sense. The worship of God that commenced at the dawn of creation, when "the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy," has continued, unbroken, ever since. And even today, in places here and there and everywhere, the Song continues, the praise and prayer.

It is a comforting thought--that when we are unable to do our little part, others fill in the gap. And truly there are times when, for a Sunday or a season or even a lifetime, we "pray for others," those who for one reason or the other cannot or do not.

I am reminded of that moment, each Sunday, when we do the Creed, Apostles' or Nicene. People sometimes ask me why we do that every Sunday, and why always at the end. I always say something like this: whether you liked the hymns or not, whether the sermon spoke to you or not, whether the choir moved you or you were able to pray with heart as well as voice, this is what we believe. This is who we are. We go out together with these affirmations on our lips, these same faith-statements by which people have ordered their lives and faced their deaths for lo, these many centuries.

People sometimes ask me, too, why I use the hymnal every time. "Surely, you know these words!" they say. Well, yes, I do...most of the time. But familiarity can breed, if not contempt, then distraction in the moment and there have been a few occasions when I have flubbed the words and led the congregation astray. A parable, that: preachers must be good stewards of the words they have been given so that their folk are not confused along the way. Accordingly, when I lead the Creeds, I always use a hymnal, to be sure I keep us together. When I am in the pew as a worshiper I never use the hymnal, sure that if I flub-up, there is someone behind me or beside me who can, by their good memory and faithfulness, rein me back in. Together, our profession of faith continues unimpeded.

Praise, too. Today, we have had to rely on others to continue the song. And they have. Next week we will pick-it-up again, God willing. We canceled our little piece of God's worship today, but Worship never ceases.

And still it was odd. Being at LSUMC on a day and at a time when we normally are there. I was reminded of Lamentations 1:1-- where Jeremiah looks over Jerusalem after its destruction by the Babylonians and the deportment of the Jews, many of them to Babylon. He writes, "How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!"

For him, of course, the lament was greater, unsure as he was as to when the people would return, when there would be songs and celebration, whether he would be there to see and hear it. For us, and for me, the odd sadness of a quiet sanctuary is tempered by the hope and knowledge that we will gather again in just a matter of days.

My prayer is that next Sunday we ring our beautiful rafters with song. That we make glad the place of our worship, rejoice to be together once again and give the Morning Stars a run for their money.


Timothy Patrick said...

"This is who we are. We go out together with these affirmations on our lips, these same faith-statements by which people have ordered their lives and faced their deaths for lo, these many centuries."

Tommy, you are so right! I am an old fashioned high church man. I love the ritual..the method that makes me a Methodist. Creeds are to be repeated and hammered home.

The majority of my in-laws are Catholic. Folk mass, high mass, funeral mass, wedding mass, matins, vespers, if it is a Catholic service it has a creed recited - The Nicene Creed. I keep a copy of The Apostles Creed in my wallet so you can say it is near and dear to me.

Tom Steagald said...

Thanks for reading, Timothy!

And yes, I find my bearings by the old markers... a friend of mine says that it is a compliment when people say of us Christians, "They never had an original thought." Yes, because Jesus, Paul, and the Fathers pretty much covered it.

I think you described yourself as a wounded soul, or some such. Would like to hear more about that when you want to share.

Pax Christi

Amy said...

speaking of hymnals....
I just discovered 'Rise, Shine You People' and somehow it didn't make it into the Episcopal Hymnal, but is in the Methodist one. It is rich. Episcopalians say the creed every Sunday; it's actually quite clear as to which one is used when. peace!