Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” ~ Luke 4:5-8
This morning our worship service at Big Ivy U was marked by a number of changes/ additions to our regular style and format.
1. Instead of sitting in seats arranged as pews, all facing straight forward, we sat in a oval arrangement, with the members of the congregation facing one another and the preacher and liturgist at one end.
2. Yours truly didn't robe, because...
3. Yours truly didn't preach. Instead, a thoughtful grad student in engineering gave a sermon on Luke 4:1-13, "A Wilderness Survival Guide," in which he began by stating the things one would need if in fact one were setting out for a solo trek through the desert -- water for hydration, GPS tracking system pinpointing the locations of oases, a back up navigation system-- and proceeded to draw parallels as to what individuals here at BIU might need for their Lenten wildernes sojourn-- the living water of the Spirit, "oases" such as the worshipping community, etc. My favorite remembered lines, in re the living water:
"Walking from class to class? Take a sip. On your way to a prelim (mid-term exam)? Take a big gulp. Admiring the sunset over the lake, or the beauty of a gorge as you walk home? Bottoms up."
4. We had a Board member visiting our worship service. This is unuusual, but was really a welcome occurrence. She seemed genuinely pleased by what she saw and heard.
5. We had an ASL interpreter present because a student who normally attends brought her hearing-impaired boyfriend for the first time.
6. We had several new faces, one of whom shared the joy that her spiritual life and faith were finding renewal this week.
7. We did not have our usual pianist, because his brother was in a terrible accident, and he had to go home. We prayed for all concerned.
It was a wonderful morning, but I confess to being a little off balance as I decompress. It was wonderful, but it was not my usual Sunday morning experience. One reason for that was the change in my role. I love to preach. I don't give up the pulpit lightly (and I should probably have a look at that, I know.) The reason the student preached today was that on Tuesday I received a call from my dad, who was in an emergency room. At the time he could't really convey to me what was wrong, but eventually it was revealed that he'd feared he was having a heart attack, and he had called an ambulance. Within the hour of receiving the call I had rearranged my schedule for the rest of the week, and was ready to head south. Within another hour I learned that dad had been discharged and given a clean bill of health. So, I guess my being off balance began Tuesday afternoon.
Because I've had a tough time limiting my hours on the job I decided to go with the emergency plans, even though I could be here. As I listened to the tensions and anxieties I was feeling this morning, with all our logistical challenges, I thought: I really don't like being out of control. And I am, I am out of control. I can't make things flow smoothly (though they did), I can't make it so that the interpeter flows wonderfully with the word (though she did), I can't make it a good sermon (though it was).
As I listened to this young man preach the Word with great ernestness and diligence and, I might add, some real talent, I was thrown off, in a different place, but perhaps, right where I needed to be: letting go of control, letting myself receive help, letting myself hear the word afresh.