Monday, February 22, 2016
Our International Trip
Several years ago when I was guest preaching at a church that had multiple worship services, and several different flavors of worship service at that (traditional, contemporary, blended, jazz contemporary), an older man who was an usher for the morning said to me; "Pastor, it looks like you are going on an...
Indeed it did. Carrying a suit bag over my shoulder with my pulpit robe inside it, and dragging behind me a small carry on suitcase armed with all of the essentials of a long morning of preaching (cough drops, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a granola bar, cologne, hand sanitizer, a pair of jeans and casual shirt for the contemporary service, a change of shoes, a Bible, a manuscript, bottle of water...Visene), it looked like I could just as easily have been breezing through the concourse of LAX airport as the Narthex of whatever church I was preaching in. Preaching in a modern context requires adaptability in so many different ways.
But when I thought twice about the comment my octogenarian friend had made, I realized the basic truth of what he had said. In a very real sense, he was correct in saying that going to church each Sunday morning was like going on an;
To listen to a Bible reading from the book of Exodus is to be magically tele-transported from sunny Southern California (for example) to the arid, rocky desert of the Sinai Penninsula. To hear the poetry of the book of Psalms is to go through a wardrobe portal and emerge on the other side in an ancient castle in Jerusalem. To read the letter of Paul is to be lifted up as if by a great medieval griffin and dropped into the mountains of Turkey, or a boat on the Mediterranean, or a cobbled, dirty street in Rome.
And it isn't just the Bible texts that take us to different places. The music and hymns on any given Sunday morning are also a passport book full of stamps. Singing the song, "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" takes us to a tiny town town in Austria where in 1824 Ludvig can Beethoven wrote the original version. Belting out the lyrics of my new favorite worship song, "Oceans" takes us to a brightly lit stage in Australia where Hillsong is singing to a veritable "ocean" of out-stretched and raised hands.
And great preachers too, transport us to different places around the world. One of my favorite Presbyterian preachers, Earl Palmer, recently preached a Lenten sermon in which listeners were instantly beamed into the last week of Jesus' life. The message began with these words; "On the Monday of Holy Week, Jesus told a very short parable." Magically, the whole congregation were all placed at the feet of Jesus as he told one of his very last stories, an allegory of the kingdom of God.
So, where are you going this coming weekend? What international, or perhaps intergalactical connection are you planning on making? Will you have a seat by the window, or will you sit in the isle?
The one bit of advice I might give about taking international trips each weekend, to various places around the world, is that it definitely helps to travel light. Bring less luggage. Pack less stuff.
But that is a blogpost for another day...
All For Now,