I regularly remind my congregation that when you do 52 worship services a year, some are just going to stink. There is no avoiding it nor is there any picking or planning which ones they are going to be. Some mornings things are just not going to come together.
By all accounts this morning at around 8am, things looked to be going that way. First of all I was still home at 8am despite my attempts to be at church by that time. Between 8:00 and 8:10, I walked the mile between my home and the church building, trying to pray. Instead I found my mind was a jumbled mess of stray thoughts all trying and failing to find a well-organized logic structure to call home. On top of that, my body was a chaos of sore muscles and achy joints because the last two weeks I have been doing the workouts with my Cross Country team despite being in the worst shape of my life. Add to that the fatigue and exhaustion of my spirit after a long and stressful week and the result was a Kevin who was not in any frame of mind to be “Pastor Kevin.” Then it occurred to me that half my worship team was gone, which probably meant half the church was too because we no longer celebrate the “holy” on holy-day weekends but instead we go camping, unless we are unlucky enough to be the Pastor.
At 9:30 I watched the parking lot with eager anticipation, expecting three families to show up with their toddlers to a new preschool class we are launching. These families all guaranteed me they would be there. My wife had gotten out of bed early so that my daughter could join them. The 3 families did not show. I had woken my wife up an hour earlier than usual so she could play with my temper prone daughter in our nursery for an extra hour. She did that spouse thing where she knows it isn’t my fault but wants to blame me anyway. I was apologetic.
That all suddenly became irrelevant because I remembered that my youth leader was not going to be there either. As if on cue, three teenagers showed up late. I intercepted them and had a conversation about the “Problem of Evil” in my Sunday School office where I half connected with them and half bored them to death. That was okay, though, because I fully bored myself to death.
Then people started trickling into church. I got stuck in the sound booth because we had our usual audio and video problems with which to contend. Of course, our regular AV person wasn’t there so we had to equip another saint to step in (one of the teens from Sunday School). As I ironed out those problems, my treasurer had business that needed my input (the writing of my paycheck, which I was all too ready to give back if the Sunday didn’t start looking up) and several well meaning souls reminded me one by one by one by one that the “most important announcement ever” (also known as the community hymn sing) did not make the bulletin.
After fixing the AV and expressing my condolences one by one by one about the announcement not getting its due in our Sacred Bulletin, I met with my tiny worship team. We prayed and entered the sanctuary and I found myself wondering, “is it noon yet?”
We sang a song, did the greeting time and I got up to give the announcements (giving the hymn sing its due) and to my surprise the sound was not broadcasting very loudly despite being turned up quite loud.
But suddenly I could hear the congregation sing, which was surprising considering we had 30 people. When we have 60, I regularly do not hear the congregation. But because of our sound issues I could hear almost everybody’s voice and, man, that was beautiful.
Then I got up to preach. My sermon looked good on paper but I hated preaching it to half the congregation, particularly on a day when my own well was running dry. To top it off the PowerPoint automatically advanced the slides every 10 seconds whether I wanted it to or not.
But somewhere between the songs and my sermon, the Sunday stopped being “Get It Over With Sunday” and started being something sacred. I don’t know if it was hearing the congregation sing or if it was that once I started preaching, I found an untapped vein of Holy Water in my otherwise empty cistern. Or it could have been that one wonderful congregant who hung on every word of my sermon. She came down to pray at the altar during the closing songs and I invited the congregation to gather around her to pray for her.
Needless to say we had a moment as the people of God that won’t soon be forgotten or undone.
Isn’t it amazing that when I am not fully present, God still is.