Sunday, September 22, 2013


I want to begin by telling you that I love the church, and I love my church. I love the people first of all.  And I love our pastors, especially our new pastor of preaching.

I also love the way our particular church has chosen to worship. Our liturgy, our music, even the worship space draws us to reflect on our Triune God, the only Holy One. Indeed, the formality of our worship is one of the things that drew my husband and I to our current church.

But today something happened that made me wonder if sometimes, our formality overwhelms opportunity. Let me explain.

We worship in a downtown, urban area. There are several homeless shelters within a block or two of our building. As a congregation, we are involved in any number of ministries that assist this needy population and it is not uncommon for some of our needy neighbors to worship with us on Sunday morning.

Within minutes of the beginning of the sermon, a woman, obviously from the neighborhood, walked up the center aisle, bag and all, and sat in the second bench from the front. Her hair was rather messy, her bag was full of who knows what, and she was dressed in jeans – not typical apparel at our church. She sat there for a few minutes, then she got up, and walked out without saying a word, just as she had walked in a few minutes earlier.

A couple of minutes later, she walked back up the center aisle, back to the second bench. All of this happened in front of us: the congregation, the choir, and the pastors.

But no one said or did anything.

Not a word of kindness. Not a gesture of love. Not a question about what she might be seeking. Not even an offer to pray for her, although I would suspect many, like me, were doing exactly that. No one even got up and sat next to her. Me included.

A few minutes late, she got up and walked out again.

Unbeknownst to me, one of our pastors and several of our members did attend to her in the back of church. I was very happy about that.

But I couldn’t help but wonder, especially in the middle of a sermon on the church as family and unconditional love for others, whether the real sermon was not the one being preached, but the potential sermon sitting in our second row. And despite the help we offered, I still can’t help but wonder whether a sermon acted out wouldn’t have been more effective than the spoken words we heard today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I do not really like the shorter days of fall. It is dark when my alarm goes off in the morning these days, making it all that much harder to wake up. When I drive to the bus or all the way in to work, I have to use my headlights. Admittedly, that's not a big deal, but it seems that just as I am getting used to bright, sunlit mornings, we dive back into gloomy darkness.

But today was different.

I drive east to get to work and this morning the sun was just peeking over the horizon as I left my neighborhood. The horizon was clear, but at just about the three o'clock mark above the horizon and stretching to about the 1 o'clock point behind my car there was a thin, bumpy layer of clouds. These clouds made for a near perfect refraction of the light coming from the rising sun.

Have you ever sat and watched the remnants of a campfire when all the wood has burned down and you are left with glowing embers? The embers glow reddish-orange with tinges of blue around the edges. Now pick up that mind-picture and put it up on the sky. Throw on a little bright pink everywhere for good measure and you have some idea of what the sunrise looked like this morning. I wish I could have taken a picture so you could see it. Of course a picture never does such things justice.

I often ride with my radio off but this morning, I had a CD of praise music in. I turned it off. It seemed to me that the heavens were doing all the praise that was necessary. Indeed, the heavens were declaring the glory of God, the skies were proclaiming the work of his hands (Ps. 19). 

Psalm 148 calls for the sun and the moon to praise God and for all God's saints to join in that praise. And that was exactly what happened this morning. I praised God with and through the sunrise.

And if I had woken up in light, as I did all summer long, I would have missed the glory.