Sometimes I glide into the church parking lot on Sunday mornings thinking the primary task of the morning is to deliver a sparkling, inspiring, exegetically precise, and edge of your seat narrative-styled sermon. I've studied, researched, plotted and charted and come away with the perfect delivery method. I feel ready to come in for a landing--straight into the hearts and imaginations of a waiting congregation.
And then wake-up calls catch me in the lobby. On a day like yesterday I hear for the first time of a son on meth, a sister-in-law with cancer, a daughter-in-law with cancer, a 7 year old with cancer, a teenage daughter who has moved in with a boyfriend, a weeping woman struggling to do what is right when it is so hard, a dear friend--now living in a nursing facility tell me he's hanging in there, a woman with a recurring tumor who is now facing another round of expensive surgeries, and a man who's defibrillator saved him, and he seems a bit shook.
Only moments later, Psalm 107 stormed into our service. I had already cut the 43 verses down to a tidy 9, when I recognized the robbery I was preparing in the form of a responsive reading. Who says worshipers can't focus through 43 verses--two full pages of a Psalm? And so we read them, hearing of the plights we get ourselves into, and the repeating "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble," and with a crescendo declared in unison: "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love..."
And together, a room full of people confess the mighty deliverance of our Lord. We are reminded to "cry out to the Lord." And at the end, all proceed to the front of the room--clutching their cares and towing their brokenness--and take the broken bread, dipping it into the cup. To Life! La Chaim!
Afterward, we file out; hugging, holding hands, sharing tears, facing fears and bearing the cancers and heartbreaks and one another out of the room. We have weak shoulders. We can't carry these things alone. But we share One Heart, a given one. And that is everything.
Slipping back into the car, I realized my sermon was far from spectacular. Perhaps that was because I left much of it out--at least a couple hours worth of study time--dumped in the shadow of something brighter. It got lost in the glare of the Mighty One. And I'll settle for that any day.