Thursday, May 13, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
Regularity and uniformity are signs of the Spirit to us
On a recent Sunday we had a little holy excitement in our church! It was Eleanor Lee and Leslie Tomlinson’s 60th anniversary, and I had passed the word that the congregation would have special flowers as a surprise in celebration of the occasion. Jimmy McIntosh took care of those arrangements, and everyone was on the watch for the happy couple to arrive. We intended to mark the occasion for the milestone that it was.
Not many people have a sixtieth wedding anniversary. My Winter grandparents did. I recall their 50th mostly through photos, for I was just a tot in 1955, but I remember the sixtieth very clearly.
As with the Tomlinsons, it revolved around flowers placed in their church.
My Uncle Bill and Auntie Fran celebrated their diamond anniversary twice; that is, they celebrated it at sixty years and again at seventy years!
You would think they were married as children, but were 26 when they married. They both lived to be 101 years old! They almost celebrated anniversary seventy-five. So events like this ought to be celebrated.
At our church on the anniversary Sunday, Eleanor Lee and Leslie arrived just as the adult class was being dismissed. Everybody from the class went to greet them and hear about their celebration activities.
I went to change into my robe and entered the sanctuary to begin the service, but only a few were in the room. That did not give me pause, as I was a few moments early.
But nobody else came in. I soon realized that those who were in the sanctuary were people who had arrived before our honorees and did not know they were in the building.
Mr. Hiltonsmith, our organist, had played a lovely arrangement of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” and after finishing, he looked at me for a signal. There were still only four of us in the room!
I could hear the happy conversation wafting up from the entrance hall below, so like a school principal hailing in the children from the playground, I asked Bill Lesley if he would go downstairs and call the congregation to worship. “Ring the bell!” I called after, as he walked down the aisle.
In seconds everybody piled into their pews, giggling and looking a little sheepish. Eleanor Lee and Leslie were blushing like newlyweds. It was a delightful moment! I asked Mr. Hiltonsmith to play his prelude again, and this time the music was enjoyed by all.
Presbyterians are known for doing all things “decently and in order,” quoting the Apostle Paul’s injunction in 1 Corinthians 14:40.
In some traditions spontaneity and extemporaneous innovation are seen as signs of the Spirit’s presence. But we are the people who think calamity will follow if the service either begins or continues five minutes past the customary times for entering and leaving God’s house. For us, regularity and uniformity are the signs of the Spirit!
On any other Sunday, walking into the sanctuary and finding but four on hand to worship God would have been disheartening. I am so glad to report that the reason we started off with so few on that particular day was that a happy celebration had spontaneously begun, and that we made extemporaneous adaptations to assure its continuation.
I think the Spirit was present through it all — smiling down upon our little flock — even if our service did begin five minutes late!
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