I had one of those incredible weekends that just left me limp and all Jesus'd up. Thank God I was taking notes throughout the whole thing. Sometimes I feel oddly maniacal in my note taking but there are just so many things to remember. I’m glad I wrote it all down even if it did make me look a little mentally ill.
I went to three worship services, two meetings, (one of which was to totally revamp the Children’s Chapel—talk about a bold weekend), one bridal shower and a dinner with friends. It doesn’t get any better than that. Oh, and I had one phone conversation in the middle of one of the meetings that will give me a major project while I’m in Guatemala. It was a busy weekend.
Our six-hour meeting Saturday morning was to prepare our team for the bi-lingual bible study in Guatemala. We spent some time going over the fine details of a trip to the country (passing out malaria meds, dispensing advice like what to pack and how to brush your teeth with bottled water) and then a little study of the three scriptures we will use to guide us through the week.
In the middle of the meeting I got a phone call from the guy who had supervised the installation of a Living Waters for the World system in one of the towns we will visit. I had told Bob that I could do any follow-up he needed while I was there. The beauty of LWW is that even though I’m not on Bob’s “team” everyone gets the same training at Clean Water U and Bob knew I could do what he needed me to do.
I raced over to the bridal shower as soon as the meeting was over. I missed all the chit-chat and gift opening but they still had cake. Perfect timing. I must remember this trick.
Even better, Nancy was at the shower. Except she has requested to be incognito for this story. She suggested I refer to her as “Natasha.” After all the guests left Nancy/Natasha and Traci lingered behind. When Traci found out Nancy had an alias she wanted one, too and requested to go by “Sandra Bullock.” They really needn’t worry. The story isn’t about them. They didn’t do anything remotely colorful or worthy of ridicule unless you count Guilt by Association.
Nancy is famous for her curiosity. Once in a while, usually when her husband is out of town, she will visit a very un-Presbyterian worship service somewhere. Her only restriction is finding something on a Saturday night. She’s been to Temple Emanuel for a jazz-themed Shabbat and to Polka Mass with the Catholics. Her curiosity and her worship are both sincere and respectful. In fact, she goes to great length to blend in with the regulars.
Traci graduated from Seminary a while back and is always looking for interesting worship services before she gets tied down to one church. Traci and I are always game for anything Nancy wants to cook up.
Which brings us to the parking lot at the Eastern Orthodox Church in Plano. Nancy had googled a list of the unique things the Orthodox do in worship. And it was a pretty intimidating list. It turns out that they stand for the whole service, spend a lot of time bowing, bending, kissing icons and crossing themselves—not to mention that they cross themselves backwards from the way Roman Catholics do.
So we sat there in the parking lot practicing how to cross ourselves correctly so we could blend in. We sat for what seemed like forever waiting to find a woman wearing slacks. We all had on slacks from the shower. Nice slacks, not blue jeans-- we’re not a bunch of hillbillies at my church, just relaxed. But we wanted to be dressed appropriately out of respect. The longer we sat there the more intimidated we got. We decided maybe we should wait and call the church to get clarification on the dress code before we visited. So, we bailed on the Orthodox and went to Plan B.
I’m not sure where Nancy got the Plan B church but she had several websites printed out for Plans B, C, and D, based on geographical sections of town. Plan B church was only a couple of miles away. It was billed as a “missional” church. I’m not sure exactly what that means. It turned out this church was just another “mega-church-in-the-making”, one of those new charismatic groups with no order or doctrine, just worshipping God willy-nilly as the moods strikes them. The exact opposite of the Orthodox church.
The sermon was OK as sermons go. My notes became a kind of stream of consciousness exercise. After about three pages my attention was starting to wane and I wrote, “He has made his point and is now beating it into a bloody pulp.” I read through their hymnal. Then I flipped back through my notes from the earlier meeting. And recorded my current thoughts: “Now he’s starting to shout about abortion.” And finally, “Now he’s shouting just for the sake of shouting. He must be ready to wrap it up.” Sure enough, at that point we sang a song and had quiet time for prayer and it was over.
Apparently, we had missed the offering completely or they had collected it during the first fifteen minutes we missed by hanging around the Orthodox parking lot crossing ourselves. We realized the sermon itself had been an hour and a half long. Polka Mass this wasn’t.
Natasha, Sandra Bullock and I went to dinner to dissect the worship and cross the church off our list. I decided to stick to being Presbyterian for a while.
My next worship was the Sunday morning contemporary worship at home. It was nice to worship where I didn’t have to worry about not understanding what we were doing. Our Sunday morning worship is contemporary, and very informal. Sometimes we even clap. And we always have Communion.
Anne has probably done Communion hundreds, if not thousands of times. No matter how informal the service, Anne always leads a magnificently dignified Communion. She stood behind the Lords Table and began the sacrament. But as she pulled away the cloth napkin covering the bread and began the liturgical words: “On the night our savior was…” she stopped dead in her tracks. Her whole demeanor changed. Her body relaxed from that of worship leader to ordinary human. In a husky almost sensual voice that she couldn’t contain she said, “Boy, this bread smells sooo good.”
When I went up to take Communion by intinction I leaned over to smell the bread before I took a piece. Anne was right. It smelled divine. Yeasty. Fresh. Flavorful.
Sometimes worship is experienced beyond the rote words. My weekend was still young and I had more meetings and another worship service that day. But it was the bread I remember. Sometimes the most ordinary moment comes upon you and stops you dead in your tracks. Jesus is sneaky that way. Everything I had done over the last two days was done in an effort to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Yet I had almost forgotten to appreciate the little bits of Heaven right in front of me.
Sometimes we need to stop in the middle of all the meetings and smell the bread.