The last two weeks, I was invited to lead worship at a wonderful little congregation in rural Wisconsin. When I met with the pastor to discuss these two weeks, his love for the congregation was evident. How he described them is how I experienced them as well.
Yesterday, my boys came with me. Congregation members (kindly) put them to work in setting up for cookies and coffee after worship. Youngest explored the church in full before the service. They sat in the balcony during worship – which is the “youth space.” Two members, whom I’d just met one week before, introduced me to their daughter and grandsons who were visiting for the day.
Even though it was only for two weeks, being with this congregation in worship was very life-giving for me. It was lovely to say, “Have a good week” – knowing I was going to see them the next week. And it was also nice to hear, “See you next week.” I really looked forward to going back the second week.
Over these last months, I have been a part but yet not a part of the Body of Christ. A part, because I can freely go and worship with other congregations. This really hit home for me two years ago when I did my internship and was in another church for the school year. While it always takes time for somewhere new to become “home,” the way my boys and I were welcomed in and made part of this community was beautiful. I felt this again these last two weeks.
But I’ve also felt not a part. And this has to do with not only not being in the same congregation each week, but not being an active part of any congregation. I still have some limited activity with my home church but have largely maintained a Sabbath-distance. I suppose there is some freedom in this, but it’s not really a freedom I desire.
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NRSV)
Back in October, when I began my Sabbath time, I went to hear one of my seminary friends preach at her field site. She surprised me by asking if I would read the Scripture for the service. I LOVE to read Scripture, so I happily said, “Yes!” As I was driving home, I was struck by how wonderful it was to read Scripture in the worship service. Only a few weeks into my “time off,” I didn’t know when I would be involved in leading worship again. This surprise request was more significant to me than I (or my friend) could have realized.
I was so thankful to my friend for asking me.
When I was driving home yesterday after worship I realized how energized I was (knowing, of course, that I would need to recharge later in the afternoon as my introverted-personality can only function as an extrovert so long). I love to preach and lead worship. I love to look into the eager faces of the children during the children’s message. I love to offer a charge and benediction as we go out into the world. Likewise, being invited to preside as the Table to break the 30-Hour Famine fast with our youth on Saturday was life-giving. Our ordained youth Elder joined me at the Table, which made it even more meaningful for me (and hopefully for others who participated).
God gave me the opportunity to lead and be part of another part of the Body of Christ these last two weeks and preside at the Table this weekend. For these gifts, I am thankful. I’m still in a period of patient waiting. This period is both restorative as well as active as my next steps begin to take shape. For these gifts, I am thankful.
The Body of Christ is a beautiful and miraculous thing. There is always room for one more and I often discover it in ways I do not expect.
And for this gift, I am most thankful.