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God Always Shows Up

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Today marks my final worship service with First Pres Argenta. I could leave a really sentimental post, but that would be very unlike me. So, I’ll leave you with a reminder that while real community is crazy and chaotic, it’s the best way I know to do life with Christ.

Almost every Monday our former church secretary and I would play a game called, “You’ll never believe what happened on Sunday.” Actually, it wasn’t much of a game. I mean, sometimes she guessed, but mostly she just waited to hear what I had to tell her this week. Here are just a few of the things we covered on any given Monday.

  • The sound system no longer works
  • Half the lights in the sanctuary have mysteriously gone dark
  • There was a homeless person waiting for me outside the church when I arrived
  • There was a homeless person waiting inside the church when I arrived who believed they had been locked in over the weekend (which is impossible…we have fire doors).
  • The piano player didn’t show
  • The liturgist didn’t show
  • The donut person forgot to bring the donuts (this is the worst thing that can happen at our church on a Sunday morning)
  • The nursery worker was sick and two new families with kids showed up for worship
  • Two of the four toilets were clogged.
  • There were two meat dishes and eleven desserts for potluck.
  • Someone is leaving the church because it just hasn’t become what they wanted it to be.
  • An inebriated stranger wandered in in the middle of worship (not an isolated incident)
  • There were visitors who left when they realized the pastor was a woman
  • I got chewed up one side and down the other by an octogenarian because she thought I’d moved a painting.
  • Someone stole my guitar…and the wireless mics
  • All the communion elements (including moldy bread and some strong smelling wine) were still on the table from the week before.
  • Lost a member over a disagreement with another member regarding scheduling of the acolytes (kids who light candles before church).
  • Lost a member because the church just hadn’t become what he thought it would
  • A dog wandered into church, and it took us awhile, but we found the owner.
  • The three wreaths hung at the back of the church for Advent had all fallen into the pews (before worship–thanks be to God!)
  • Someone swiped six(!) broccoli heads from my community garden plot
  • Nobody remembered it was communion, so I had to send an elder out to a convenience store, and we made do with Wonder bread and grape juice
  • Our attempt at a gluten-free common loaf for communion ended in a super crumbly mess
  • There’s a weird unidentified smell coming from the sanctuary (or fellowship hall or nursery or kitchen).
  • I was the first one to arrive and found all the doors in the church open and the alarm turned off
  • The women’s bathroom was trashed
  • The education hall was flooded
  • The roof over the (pick a place) was leaking
  • The air conditioning is out
  • I had to clean up human feces from the back entrance (also not an isolated incident).
  • I blew up the baptismal font
  • The electricity was out all over the neighborhood, so we moved everything for worship to the fellowship hall (where there is some natural light) and then the lights came back on about five minutes before time for worship to begin.
  • All of the pilot lights had gone out on the stovetop and the kitchen was full of gas fumes, so I opened all the doors to the kitchen and fellowship hall so we didn’t blow up.

I’ve heard tales and legends of pastors who spend a half-hour to an hour before worship in stillness and silence and contemplation. I have trouble believing that, and I certainly have no clue as to what that is like. There’s always some interruption, malfunction or crisis that emerges before worship that makes the idea of contemplation time absolutely laughable.

At the beginning of about half the worship services I led in my nine-year tenure at First Pres Argenta, I would start worship feeling like I wouldn’t to make it through to the end—already exhausted by whatever has happened before the bell that marks the beginning of worship tolled. There’s a line in the welcome that says, “Welcome if you’ve got it all together, and welcome if you are in danger at falling apart at any moment.” That line is much more for me than the people in the congregation. If it applies to someone else present for worship that day, then all the better.

But you know what? God showed up every time. Not only did I always make it through worship, I always felt better by the time I reached the end than I did when I started. The very act of worship reminds me why I do what I do and Who I do it for.  God is always present in worship, not because of me, and often, in spite of me.

And God will continue to show up to worship at First Pres Argenta–no matter who is preaching, no matter who gathers, no matter what does or doesn’t go wrong. It is a sacred space and a holy place where people are welcomed just as they are. Blessings upon you all as you continue to be a community in Christ and to do the work of Jesus on the corner of 4th and Maple in Argenta.

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