Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Reflection: The Worshiping Body

I'm hoping to begin a new tradition here by taking some cozy time on Sunday evenings to reflect on the day. Sundays, as you know, are particularly full in the Reverend Mama house. I left this morning before any of the boys awoke, and got to church before any of the congregants arrived. My coffee and I shared a quiet morning in the hush of anticipation of Sunday worship as the faithful began to gather. A guest musician was warming up for the bass guitar part in the "Credo" of the Gospel Mass by Robert Ray. Acolytes and stewards appointed the altar table and polished the offering plates. The choir rehearsed, the ministers prayed, the people arrived. This silent, reverent space became abuzz with excitement and anticipation. Rev. Jackie was out sick today, and I had the joy of offering the Children's Sermon on Mark 1:40-45, which is tough since the topic was leprosy. We worked our way into it, and in the 11:15 service, I asked the children what usually happens when Jesus shows up stories like these. A child, wise beyond her years, timidly offered: "Everything gets better?"

Indeed, young one. Indeed.

And it was clear that Jesus showed up today, because everything was a little better. Folks were happier to see each other, braver to confess sins and wounds, open to where the Spirit led. It was a good day to be at St. Mark. There were a few months last year where it seemed like the Spirit got a little distracted at the Starbucks on Peachtree and 7th, and only made it to the last hymn or maybe just Sunday School. I was about to send the Spirit a copy of Leaving Church when Advent arrived, and suddenly the third person of the Trinity remembered how important worshiping with this community of believers is, and has since joined a bunch of committees and has recommitted to a life of full participation in the life of the church. The Spirit has also signed up to host the New Member dinner at the end of the spring, and I hear we're in for some delightful baklava. Reservations can be made by calling the church office.

On Friday, I had the great pleasure of taking full advantage of my husband's killer new job by crashing a lunch he was having with an incredibly gifted and talented colleague, Kim Long. She's fantastic, and I hope to be a lot like her when I grow up. We talked parenting, parenting boys, parenting grown up boys, parenting boys in church, parenting boys in church when you have a spouse that travels, and her two books that are coming out this year. (Can you pinpoint the exact moment that I stopped hijacking the conversation?) We talked about our backgrounds, which both originated in the music world, and our ministry lives that both began in Princeton. She mentioned, in the course of conversation, that one of her books is about the Worshiping Body, and walked through how each part of us praises God in a particular way in the course of Sunday worship. I will not do her creative and interesting work justice here, so you should wait and pre-order the book from Wesminster John Knox when it comes out in the fall.

But, our conversation did raise some thoughts for me as I gathered with my Worshiping Body today. Today was a day of cohesion and unity, where we opened our lips and declared God's praise in unity and harmony. We Marched to Zion together with even steps, and accepted our comission to serve the world as we exited the door. As I exited, I felt like it was possible that my ministry has finally taken shape. I'm not sure if its credibility or authority or acceptance or just a lot of new people who don't know any better, but I feel a little more sure of myself and a little less like I'm walking into a job that I can't possibly do. This is a sure sign that I'm overlooking something epic, like WRITING A SERMON FOR NEXT SUNDAY, but all things in due time.

This afternoon, I had the supreme pleasure of being present for the baptism of baby Joy, who is the daughter of two Methodist Clergy friends of mine. Since they both serve churches in the Atlanta area, they wisely decided to do the baptism at Cannon Chapel at Candler School of Theology. This place holds special significance for them since, not only did they both go to school there, but they were also married there. Friends, family, congregants, and more Methodist ministers than you could shake a Bible at were present to support this family as we all promised to raise this baby girl up in the ways of Christ. Rev. Jim Cantrell, who is one of God's finest people, preached and pointed out that one day, as she grew older and began to go to school, make friends, want to sleep over, and (Heaven help us all) begin to date, that her parents would look back on this day when we affirmed that in her baptism, she is never alone. As he spoke, you could see the reflection of his own daughter, now a young woman, present in his eyes. I knew her as a young girl, and it was as if Jim was remembering his own daughter's baptism and reconnecting to the power and promise available in the mystery of this sacrament.

As he preached, a peer of baby Joy's shrieked with delight as punctuation to his proclamation. He cooed and whooped with the enthusiasm of a Pentecostal, reminding us all why we simultaneously love having babies around and also relish the convenience of nursery care. We lifted our voices and sang about the promise that God offers in our baptism, and affirmed that we are all God's children. Baby Joy's grandfather performed the baptism, and his voice cracked as he poured the water on her head and whispered, "Joy, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." All of us choked back tears of reverence and awe as we watched these generations of faithful people do what faithful people have been doing for generations.

After the baptism, I met my family at Winnona Park just in time for the 4:00 neighborhood pick up soccer game. Dozens of people, ages 4-64 gathered to play for the better part of two hours. I think each team had 30 people on it, and most of the time they all ran in the same direction. It was remarkable. Cooper, being a tad on the young side, ran around the sidelines, kicking a deflated soccer ball with noticeable skill and agility. It piqued the attention of another mom, who is now a new friend. Other families and children gathered to play on the playground, and Jackson and I invented a game called "Camera Tag," which may be my best idea to date. It involved Jackson running, hiding, and then being caught by the camera. Not only did it save me from having to run around, but I also got some great pictures of him in the midst of afternoon exuberance. To sum it up, the day looked like this:





Today was a day where the body worshiped in its fullness. Bodies met, engaged in proclamation and praise, lifting voices and wrestling out theological specifics of what it means to be a member of this faithful community. Arms embraced one another in care and compassion, and hands lifted up a young one as she was marked with the sign of the cross and blessed by water and the spirit. Feet trod onto streets and into the world, and ran on soft grass and hard earth, carrying the message of the beloved Son wherever we may go.

In all of this, may God be praised.

1 comment:

SusanAG said...

Thank you for this. I can't find any other words to express how reading this makes me feel. Thank you.