Thursday, January 26, 2012
The Preacher’s Corner
‘Housekeeper’ in the house of God...
The current movement toward “spirituality” in the churches emphasizes various activities such as “journaling,” “walking a labyrinth,” various prayer rituals, songs, prayers said repetitively, and so forth as ways of channeling our thoughts toward God. One of the terms you often hear is “centering prayer.”
As you may detect, I am less given to contemplation than to action. I do think about things a lot, but I have never considered my thinking as particularly “spiritual” — it is more like worry than prayer!
But I do find a certain sense of peace — some might even call it “centering” as I walk around our church each week before the service and make sure everything is order for the upcoming Sunday.
I try to do this as early in the week as I can in case tourists come to see us. Not only tourists — anyone who comes in deserves to find God’s house in order. Wilted flowers need to be removed from the altar, communion vessels cleaned and put away, chairs left helter-skelter need to be put in orderly rows, hymnals and Bibles returned to the pew racks — Kleenexes and scattered bulletins need to be picked up, my sermon notes need to be collected and discarded. (I do not save old sermons — I always feel I could improve on last week’s attempt! I may repeat myself, but it is because of my wandering mind—not because I am reading the yellowed pages of an old sermon!)
Different people keep their pews in different ways. Some are excellent housekeepers. Others leave something to be desired.
So I do this bit of housekeeping, including gathering up all the things people leave behind.
Our church has a veritable collection of umbrellas, hats, gloves, reading glasses, earrings, and such like. We have so many spoons, forks, and other serving pieces that we could furnish a bridal hope chest — if the bride did not require that the pieces all matched! Sometime I am going to have a rummage sale of all these items. I am sure each one could tell its own story.
On one or two Sundays a child has even been left behind. It happened that the parents came in separate cars, and each raced away after the service each thinking that the other had “junior.” At such times, thoughts run through my mind of old Eli who had to raise the boy Samuel when his mother Hannah left him at the tabernacle as a thanks offering for God.
Hannah had prayed for a son and promised to give him to the Lord, should her prayer be answered. But as far as I know, no one asked Eli about the bargain. Eli had not been an exemplary father to his own sons Phineas and Hophni. But Samuel turned out to be an outstanding man of God. Still, I do not intend to rear any children “accidentally” left behind after worship in the Holly Springs Kirk!
So my advice is the same to one and all. Leave your pews tidy. Take your things with you. And please claim your children after the service!
As I move about the pews and rooms of our church, I think of the people whom I associate with each spot, and ponder the work I am called to do in their midst. It is a kind of prayer for each one. I would miss those moments of preparation were they not mine to do.
After all, does not the psalmist say, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness?”
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