Thursday, July 16, 2009
Every Sunday I see the congregation in a very different way than the people around them see. I look into hundreds of faces -- all ages, very different backgrounds, diverse situations... On any given Sunday morning I can see the tension in a single mother's face who fought to get her children with her to Church that morning. Around her sits a man whose once fluid movements are now painful and jerky but his face still seems to glow at making it to God's House one more day. I see the carefree looks on a young couple so new to their love that nothing else seems to matter to them. Behind them sits a single soldier who is in that pew every Sunday he is not deployed or on duty -- a marvelous dedication for a 22 year old guy whom others might think has better things to do with his time. I gaze upon people who have spent most of their adult life in this congregation and others whose lives and their lives in Christ have barely begun. There are children who love to acolyte and they are carefully watching (and probably unkindly critiquing) the job the current acolytes are doing. There are folks looking around for new faces because they want to make sure they welcome them and others so intent upon the sights and sounds of the chancel that they appear to be looking right through me.
But there are other things I see. I see many gifted and talented people. Teachers who can touch a child's heart and mind in the most special of ways. Wise individuals who do not speak often but I always listen when they do. Effective planners who are always dreaming -- never bothering to wait for one to finish before they have begun a new one. Folks with green thumbs (and fingers, and toes, and...) who know how to turn a cement court into a flowering courtyard. There are the tired who have fought many battles and are now more prone to go along than get their way and those so excited they want everyone to think and see things just like they do. I see people who know much of God's Word and who are always at Bible study to learn more. Among them are several special folks who see every problem as a mission and every trouble as an opportunity. Their hope and exuberance have won over many a skeptic. There are those who have learned the Kingdom of God was there before they came along and will still be there after they are gone. They seem a good balance for those who want to do everything in the next ten minutes.
I see these folks week after week after week. They inspire me. It is their presence that forces me to make sure that in Word and Liturgy, in Gospel and Sacrament, I serve them as faithfully as I know how -- offering the richness of a deep tradition with the vitality of today. I am inspired by them to preach faithfully (often finding small ways to improve the 8:15 sermon at the 10:45 service -- because to do less would demean those whom God calls His own).
I hope they too are inspired -- to offer their best... to get involved in the work of the Kingdom as well as the worship... to place their talents and abilities in service to the Lord where He multiplies for His purpose and accomplishes His task with the energy, gifts, and faithful responses we offer to Him.
In the end, there are only winners when we mutually inspire one another to aspire to our best for His glory... It is the way God works and builds His kingdom. Maybe not the most efficient but it is His way... and every now and then as I look out over all the faces, I remember to say "Praise be the Triune God!" for every one of them... for every one of YOU!