Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Throwing it all away

Actually, all I threw away on Sunday were my sermon notes, but i thought the title might get attention!

Sunday was a good day, a great return to work and a really enjoyable way to spend time in Church! I stayed up until stupid o'clock in the morning writing a sermon which I preached at the traditional Communion (1662) service at 8.30am. I like this service, a good way to start a Sunday, reflective and quiet using words filled with resonance and depth which say so much despite being originally written in 1549! The sermon worked there, it wasn't a bad talk at all (though I say so myself) but having got to the next Church for our 10.30am Contemporary language Communion I decided that it wasn't the right sermon for that congregation! I am always telling those on the Worship Leading course I run that context reigns supreme in our worship (well, actually God reigns supreme, but context is important) so I took notice of what I said (yes, Clergy do try and practice what we preach) and decided I needed to do something different.

So I did something I very rarely do, I tore up (metaphorically) my sermon notes and preached straight from the Biblical text, ie I did a sermon-come-Bible study which was probably longer than a usual Sunday service sermon, but i felt engaged both with the text and with the need of that particular congregation. It was helped by the fact that the text set for the third Sunday of the Easter season was the Emmaus road story (text here) where two disciples walk with a stranger who explains the meaning of the life and death of 'the Messiah' using the Hebrew Scriptures, and then is recognised as Jesus when he shares a meal with them and breaks bread. This is such a resonant and powerful passage that simply speaking about the encounter with the risen Jesus, the unseen Jesus, the stranger who is revealed to be Christ, to talk about learning to recognise Christ in others, and in the breaking of bread is enough to give plenty of material to consider and learn from. I was further assisted in this by the fact that I had heard two very good talks on the story when I went to Church last week and that many of the points made had stuck in my head (so they must have been good sermons) and the story itself had been happily bouncing around my brain for a week or so. I also realised, or re-realised, that it is good to step outside of my normal way of doing things and take a more dynamic approach sometimes! It was a very rewarding service overall - our worship leader had taken some time in putting together some very appropriate songs, and the whole service had a feeling of openness to God and to one another that at some of our service isn't quite so obvious!

And the day continued in such a way. I spent some time after lunch putting together the evening service. In the middle of the afternoon I officiated at a Baptism service in one of my other villages, unusual to have it outside of the usual service pattern (8.30am, 10.30am and 6pm are usual service times in most of our villages, with a couple of 4pms in a couple of different churches) but a pleasant way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon! It was the first time I have ever, at the request of the family, used the prayer book of 1662 for a baptism service, so it was - in a funny way, considering it is one of our oldest liturgies - quite new for me too. It turned out to be a profoundly joyful experience and many people were moved by the whole event, including me.

Then once I'd returned home I finished preparation for our 6pm 'informal' service, where I was to lead and play guitar. I'm not sure how to describe what happened in the planning of that, it was almost 'serendipitous' in that it all came together exactly as one would want it to, and there was a sense of depth to the whole thing that made the time, again, profoundly joyful. Usually by the time I get to a fourth service I can feel myself flagging a little and am concerned about whether I am really at my best. This is because that, despite the fact Clergy (and all those in worship leading ministry) are used to doing these things, we put quite a lot of ourselves into these services (as discussed here) and we do get tired. Sunday was different, there was such a sense of life and growth and joy and faith and hope and much more that though I was tired when it was all over I felt full of energy for each of these very different services. And they all felt very much 'worth the effort' put into them. I also got to hear a very good talk at the 6pm, so well worth it...

That was my Sunday, I am so glad to be here!


Nick said...

Nice move! That is being blown by the spirit's wind alright!

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)

Dr.John said...

Sometimes the Holy Spirit moves and we move with Him. Those are wonderful Sundays. Good to hear you had one.

quilly said...

Don't you just love it when God plans his own worship service? I still marvel over last year when, during my morning devotions, he handed me four complete sermons at once. I said, "What am I supposed to do with these? You know I only speak once per quarter!" Then I went to worship team meeting that evening and learned that a doctor had sidelined pastor for at least four weeks and somebody was needed to fill-in for the mid-week service.

Alll the committee members started explaining why they couldn't do it. I interjected, that's okay, I have a feeling it's supposed to be me, I was divinely gifted with a sermon series during prayer this morning ...."