What a great morning we had at Holy Communion today. Pastor Jeff gave one of the best sermons I have ever heard him give- in fact, one of the best sermons I can remember anyone giving, which of course is really saying something for someone who has heard as many sermons as I have over the last 48 years. It was a seres of stories about some of the people who lived in the little town in Texas where he served his first parish. . . and these were people who on the surface might appear to have gotten caught in an all too ordinary bit of rural backwater, missing out on what the rest of the world has to offer, but who in fact had gained a very profound appreciation for life and for our place in the world and what God has in mind for us. Jeff told the story of a man in his 90s, blind and in a wheelchair, who nonetheless had a remarkable zest for life. He told us about the woman who played organ at that little church who during his time there celebrated her FIFTIETH anniversary on the job, and who waited until she had been organist for 45 years to ask for her first raise. (The church council doubled her salary from $200 to $400 . . . that’s $400 a year!) And he told us about a couple in which the husband had cared his wife for more than four decades after she was permanently disabled in a tree-felling accident for which he was responsible, profoundly rewriting the life script which they had imagined was going to be theirs. And what all of these people had in common, besides being “good to the bone” as Jeff put it, is that they all had eyes to really SEE much more than we might think possible for people “stuck” in a little out of the way town deep in the heart of Texas. . . the capacity to really see the world and how God intends for us to live in this world. Jeff said, and he is SO right, that true discernment has nothing to do with graduate school degrees or level of income or anything else which the world tends to value. Sobering, humbling, valuable words.
At the opening of his sermon, Jeff quoted one of his favorite old hymns- “Open my eyes that I may see. . .” so I ended up singing that as a solo during communion distribution. Jeff likes to call that a classic Greg Berg sort of moment- thinking of things on the fly and making them work. (If you want the choir’s pieces selected for the next six weeks, I’m probably not your man, but I do know how to think on my feet. ) The choir sang two pieces as well and sang just beautifully, and we sang three great hymns by Charles Wesley, including “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” because it was a special Sunday commemorating him. So we had wall-to-wall good music today
As nice as all of that was, maybe the best moment of the morning was the children’s sermon, in which Pastor Jeff talked about why the congregations chooses to give out Bibles to the youth. (The 3 year olds get a little kid’s Bible and the third graders get a more standard Bible.) He told everyone about a Holy Communion couple (who were sitting at the back of the sanctuary) where the husband had just given his wife a gift of a brand new Bible . . . because she had worn out her old one which she’d had since 1947. I hate to say it, but I doubt very much that there are too many people nowadays who wear out their Bibles. I know that mine sits on the shelf way too much. But maybe those words from Jeff will inspire a few of us to start wearing out our Bibles instead of leaving them on the shelf with the Hummel figurines and other fragile heirlooms. And one can hope that at least a few of those children who receive their Bibles will really do something with them and come to appreciate the stories of faith and grace which it contains.
Throw in a birthday serenade to Pastor Jeff (today was his birthday) and brunch with Trevor at Perkins afterwards and that adds up to a superb Sunday morning. . . about as good as they come, in fact.
pictured: Pastor Jeff giving his children’s sermon this morning, with Youth Bibles in hand. And the title of this blog entry, by the way, echoes one of the classic Sunday School songs of all time- “The B-i-b-l-e . . . Yes that’s the book for me! “