Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Checking In and Week-Later Sermon Thoughts
How did that happen? That entire week that slipped by? I have been enjoying the privilege of a mid-Lent break from preaching. Last Sunday the youth of our presbytery (including two from my church) led worship; the theme was Hope, based on their experiences at last summer's Triennium, an every-three-years party they throw for Presby teenagers at Purdue University. I say "party" in the best and most biblical sense of the word: gathering together, breaking bread, breaking open scripture, affirming one another as children of God. Every single person I know who has ever gone to Triennium has returned rejuvenated and full of hope for, not just our church, but for the world. So I got to bask in the glow of that last Sunday.
This Sunday I'm preaching the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Because I can, that's why.
I have such a deep connection to this text. Back in (mumbledy-mumbledy)... OK, must have been 1990, I think that was Year A... I was doing a Master's Degree in Pastoral Ministry at Big Catholic U on the East coast. I had just begun the hard slog of trying to grapple with the fact that I felt called to ordained ministry, whatever that meant as a Roman Catholic woman, and I was also the mother of a two-year-old, Larry-O (who had already begun displaying a flair for the dramatic).
Enter... let's call her "Brigid." Brigid was a chaplain at BCU, and she was responsible for overseeing one of the many masses that took place on campus throughout the weekend. We normally had a parade of Jesuits rotate through, some of whom took preaching very seriously, and at least one of whom got his sermon on the way over to the chapel by glancing through the New York Times magazine. I do not lie. Brigid herself also preached regularly... an incredibly gifted poet in the pulpit, and someone who, unbeknownst to me, had placed firmly in the back of my mind the notion that "change was just around the corner" for the Catholic church.
One day Brigid asked me whether I would like to preach the third Sunday in Lent. Almost on auto-pilot, I said, "Sure!" I then proceeded to panic, just briefly. What was I thinking? Even with the idea of ordination flitting around my heart and mind, it had never occurred to me to want to step into a pulpit.
I went to the library. I researched the gospel of the day. I came up with a sermon. I preached it. I started it by singing the opening lines from a song from Walt Disney's animated film, "Cinderella." I had recently watched the film, oh, approximately 800 times with my darling boy, and it was, surprisingly, on point.
So this is love... hmmmm... so this is love! So this is what makes life divine! I'm all aglow... hmmmm... and now I know A vision of heaven is mine!
And... friends, I was hooked. It was so thrilling, so gratifying, so, so, joyful an experience for me! I have never gotten over it. (Obviously.)
I'm trying to decide whether to use that same little hook this week, or to go in a different direction. I may... decided to honor that early experience, and sing again.