It was Sunday two days ago. Both for and against my better judgment (against, because I hadn’t gone to bed early), I got up at 7 a.m., while the sun was barely beginning to rise. That was the first time in a very long time that I had voluntarily (meaning, I wasn’t on the worship team or set-up team) gone to church before 10 a.m.
I went to the 8:45 service. I used to be a regular attender of the 11 o’clock service, but, in order to answer a dwindling attendance, leadership decided to appeal to a certain demographic that appreciates more elements of an Anglo-Catholic mass. That meant that the 11 o’clock would have incense, bells, and more singing. I’m not against any of those things (although I have thoughts and opinions about use and context), but the past two services I had attended that used incense had not treated me very well. It all goes to my sinuses. So it was a choice among the 7:30 service, the 8:45 service, and the 5:00 service.
The gospel lectionary reading was Luke 18:9-14. I knew not because I had looked at the Lectionary Page, but because it had already been quite a discussion on Twitter the week leading up to Sunday. I was looking forward to the possibility of a sermon on that passage.
I made it to the sanctuary with about 6 minutes to spare. The Uber driver and I miscommunicated, and my commute from the car to the entrance was about 30 seconds longer than usual. I chose my usual Epistle side of the sanctuary (the right side, if you’re facing the altar), and sat a little over halfway to the front.
As I flipped through the bulletin, I saw a pledge card and remembered it was still pledge month. I kept turning the pages and noticed a strange name next to “sermon”. The feeling of being rudely and suddenly jolted out of a deep sleep continued as the individual whose name I did not recognize got up to the pulpit, and announced that he was going to give the stewardship sermon.
Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. I’d heard myriad versions of different sermons on tithing, stewardship, and giving to the local church, proof texts included. But this wasn’t really a sermon, it was more of a talk about the feel-good benefits of making a pledge. I appreciated the honesty.1
It’s a good thing that, after being disappointed by the sermon, there’s still the Eucharist in which to partake. When I was once asked which church event was my favorite, my answer was “Eucharist”. It is the great leveling event: everyone comes to the table, puts out their hands, and then opens their mouths to receive the bread and the wine, the body and the blood of Christ; there is no discrimination. Someone people opt for a blessing instead, but everyone who is able comes to the altar (if not, the altar comes to you). (Granted, the individual who asked that question was probably thinking of something else as an event, but I said what I said and don’t regret it.)
The nice thing about going to the 8:45 is that I’m already at church for Sunday School hour (what my church calls “Everybody Hour”), which is between services. When the 8:45 lets out, I can go straight to the tea bar and then sit in on a group lecture/discussion. I usually stay for the voluntary, but this time I wanted time to transition. I grabbed my name tag from the tiny drawer in the narthex (translation: foyer) and headed toward the coffee/tea line in the Great Hall.
This week, the main lecture was the second part in a series leading up to discussing post-modernism in Anglican theology and liturgy. I felt slightly conspicuous, because the vast majority of people in the class were over age 60, and quite a few were over age 70. If I had to guess, I would say at least 75% of the room were folks between 60-85. On the one hand, I was disappointed that so few younger people had made an appearance, but on the other hand, I was thrilled and inspired by the attitude of learning in the room. At one point, I wanted to point out the modernism of the handout the good Rev. Dr. gave us, because it was dividing things into columns, but I refrained.
If you thought this was going to be completely inspirational, I apologize for misleading you. It is certainly not, because while sitting and observing the lovely older folks in the room, my next, admittedly morbid, thought was, “what’s going to happen to this church when they die?” That, my friends, is the perennial question that many folks have for mainline churches, and is quite possibly a significant part of the annual push for pledges.
Anyhow, after Sunday School (old habits die hard; it will always be “Sunday School” to me), I walked back to the narthex, deposited my name tag into the drawer, and made my way to the bus stop. While waiting, I stared at my feet most of the time, because they were surrounded by fallen, crispy leaves.
I’m thinking about making “Sunday Reflections” a weekly! Not all posts will likely be this narrative heavy, but let me know what you think about that idea.
After looking through some notes, my memory has been jogged. It turns out the widow was the subject of the sermon one week ahead of the lectionary. ↩