Month: July 2014

The Heavens Declare

I’m sweating. The concert was wonderful, but a thousand people packed into a small space taxed the air conditioners for the chapel. It had been sweltering outside when I entered. Storms passed by during the concert. Maybe, maybe outside it is nice. I excuse myself from the conversation, ready to head home. I step outside, hoping to greet a cool night.

I wilt. Oh, a storm passed by, but it only made things more humid. The dark air presses in, choking me. The warmth steals any energy the concert has given.

The weather does not care. It does not care that I struggle to breathe. It does not care that where I was sweating before, now I am dripping more than I would had I jumped into a lake. I am smaller than the weather, and it does not care.

I limp to my car, far away on the other side of an endless parking lot. Above the sky flashes with heat lightning. It is so far above me I cannot hear the rumbles; I only see the bright bursts of white, dancing from cloud to cloud with wild abandon. How high above the heavens are above the earth, that I cannot even discern the rumble of the beats that such energy leaps to!

But the lightning doesn’t care. It does not care that I admire its beauty from afar, mute in wonder at the glories of creation. It does not care that so far below it a little gnat scurries on a blotch on the ground. I am smaller than the lightning, and it does not care.

God made the lightning to dance. He made the weather to bless. He fashioned it with a thought, with a word, with a sentence spoken into the silence. He is bigger than the weather. He is bigger than the lightning.

The weather does not care if I live or die. (more…)

I am just as broken.

We sinful, stubborn, silly humans are a weird lot. We will know something and not really know it. For instance, I know I am broken. I confess it regularly. Every morning, I confess to Jesus. And it’s not a mechanical “yup I’m sinful.” I consider and think, and then rejoice as I read about his forgiveness. This is a real thing that I know.

And I know that as a sinful human being, I have this part of me, this sinful human nature, that says, “at least I’m not as bad as that person,” because you know what? As much as we like lying and thinking we’re not that way – well, we are.

I know these things.

But sometimes… sometimes we get clobbered with a brick.

This week, one woman in my congregation, through what appears to be callous disregard, hurt another woman in my congregation and caused her some pain and distress. For the sake of clarity, I shall give them fake names: Bertha hurt Hilda. When I encountered the problem, Hilda was in church taking care of something. She was mad at herself for being mad at Bertha for hurting her. “I should be a Christian. I should just let it go.”

I reminded Hilda that anger is not a bad thing necessarily. She had been sinned against. The proper thing was not to grin and bear it, nor to strike out. Rather, she should deal with it directly. Pull the woman aside and talk to her, one-on-one. Show the sin, and hope to announce forgiveness. Hilda and I prayed together for wisdom and strength, and forgiveness for Hilda’s anger as well.

And when I walked away… I chewed on it for a long time. Bertha had caused problems before. She is such a broken person, and this is just the latest instance. And I kept chewing. I didn’t pay attention to my children; I was busy thinking about how to deal with Bertha. My Bride tried talking to me. I didn’t hear her; I was busy constructing a rebuke for Bertha. Why is Bertha so broken? (more…)

I Forgot

Sunday morning. I preach in two hours. People needing my attention arrive in one.

I haven’t memorized the sermon yet. I’m holding the manuscript, but since I printed it out Thursday, I haven’t even glanced at it. Haven’t had the chance.

I get to the sanctuary to memorize. I’ve gotten memorization down to about a half-hour; it’s not ideal, but I should be able to get this thing nailed down.

And then the cell rings. It’s the family of the baby I’m baptizing in two hours as part of the service. Baby’s sick. They’re not sure if they’ll be able to make it. No, not an emergency, no need for a visit, but might not be able to make it to church.

OK. No problem. If they don’t show, I’m going to have to switch the opening hymn. That means organizing with the organist and figuring out how to handle the projector if we switch. But the family doesn’t know, because it’ll depend how the baby’s doing at that moment.

Great. OK, set that aside. I need to memorize the sermon.

My grounds and facilities guy comes in as I’m about a paragraph in. Fairly normal. On an average Sunday, we’ll chat for a few minutes before I review the sermon. Today I don’t have the time.

Today he really wants to talk.

Ten minutes later, and I’ve got the room to myself again. I look at the manuscript. Do I at least have the outline firm in my head?

Wait. What was I thinking when I wrote this? I look at the passage from Scripture it’s based on. Did I totally miss the point, or am I just delusional at the moment from lack of sleep? The kids have not been sleeping well this week, and a number of late-night early-morning emergencies have addled me. Do I have time to even consider a rewrite?

My organist comes in the door early to practice a harder hymn. I’m out of time. “Oh!” she says. “Everything OK, pastor?”

Yeah, why?

“I don’t usually see you in your jeans on a Sunday morning.”

Really? I’m so tired I forgot to dress up? Good thing my house is attached to the church. I fill her in on the possible baptism switch and run home to change. And as I change, I look at the time – church should be starting right now. What happened? She’s playing the opening hymn! I can hear the congregation singing! Robe! I need to get my robe on! And…

…and I still haven’t figured out what’s going on with the sermon!

Heart pounding I throw my robe on over my jeans and step out to greet the congregation. I slip and fall. I’d taken off my shoes to change, never put any others on, and now I’m in my socks. (more…)