Monday, June 06, 2005

Complain, Reclaim, & Proclaim

Some Sundays I complain.

I complain we have to get to church earlier than everyone else, we always seem rushed, oftentimes we stay afterward for one thing or another and before I know it, it's 3 p.m. and Sunday is virtually gone for someone who has to wake up at 1a.m. on Monday.

Lately, I don't know if it's been because I've been sick on and off, out of sync on and off, or under siege - but what had seemed like discipleship sometimes seemed like duty, what had been a form of worship became in my mind something akin to work, what seemed like Sunday didn't feel like the Sabbath.

Today was reclamation day.

Church was messy and chaotic - which is not unusual - we're pretty much masters at messy church. Gordon had the weekend off to spend much needed time with his family giving even more fertile ground for our usual communication confusion to flourish. Despite my slight bouts of panic, the service went it always does.

Afterwards we were committed to another service at a local nursing home or "assisted living center." On our first visit to this facility a couple of weeks ago, there were only four of us - Erin, who played piano as loud as possible in hopes of drowning out the singing of me, Gordon and Ben. This time we had a full contingent - including kids, a new visiting family, and various folks who could carry a tune and knew the words - plus we even had a little extra time for planning.

The highlight of the previous visit, if you can call it a highlight, was watching Erin try to keep from laughing as our makeshift men's choir - what I've dubbed "The Three Tenots" - tried to find a key....any key. This amid a handful of assisted living center residents who quite obviously were trying to determine if this was a church service or a medication mix up.

The last time we also arrived as the residents were wrapping up lunch so many simply rambled over to our set up in the shared living room of the facility. This time we thought we'd be smart and let them finish lunch, so we arrived 15 minutes or so later. That was a mistake.

Believe it not a lot of old folks like to take a nap after Sunday lunch and once they've gotten back to their rooms, you can't pry them out with free bus rides to the bingo hall, much less a rag tag bunch of Baptists with a reputation for bad singing. So we had 10 or 12 members of our congregation, several songs planned, even a printed up order of worship in LARGE print, about 20 hymnals and lots of motivation...we simply lacked anyone who wanted to attend. Well, that's not entirely true. One elderly gent who had lingered late at lunch grudgingly said he'd stay nearby "to see if he liked it" but never actually entered the living room. Our only other attendee was an elderly woman in a wheelchair whom I'm not completely convinced had any idea where she was or who we were.

None the less we sang some hymns, prayed, and tried our best - we sent wide eyed smiling children on this mission - to convince a few folks who had retreated to the front porch to join us...they said they'd rather sit in the 90+ degree heat and 80 percent humidity. It was that type of day.

Apparently The Three Tenots left a more lasting impression than I thought, don't fool yourself into thinking old folks have short memories.

Despite our lack of an audience we sang, we prayed, our conscripted Pastor (who was performing his third service of the day) gave a short message and we left. I felt a little disappointed, but Amy seemed upbeat and unfazed. She was glad we went, we spent some extra fellowship time with longtime church members and a new family plus a couple of old folks listened - the crotchety old guy didn't come into the living room but he didn't flee either.

It was then I realized that lately I had been letting things slip away. It was time to reclaim them.

Amy had to pull a 2 to 6 shift at Starbucks so we quickly drove home and I changed into some work clothes while Amy got ready for her job. I dropped Amy off and went back to the church.

I could have gone back home, kicked back and done nothing - technically I guess that might even be interpreted as keeping the Sabbath holy, but I wanted to work...for God.

That in itself is not lunacy...working from 2-6 p.m. in the 90+ degree heat could possibly be interpreted otherwise but I brought along plenty of water and tried to stick to the shade when possible. I revved up the lawnmower and charged over the landscape into areas that had been ignored too long. I fired up the weed eater, and even got out the blower to clean up. It's an impossible job to keep our church property "manicured" and in truth no one really wants our church to look that way, we like the feel of a church in the woods. Yet there are areas we have tamed, but if left alone for a fraction of nature's time those areas will be snatch back with gusto, cactus and briar.

So today I redrew the boundaries with purpose and sweat...but I think I may have reclaimed more than an unruly parcel of land.

I believe I may have been true to the commandment to keep the Sabbath Holy perhaps more than ever before.