Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hot Sticky Worship Sweat

When I arrived at church on Sunday morning, I had only the vaguest idea what the day would look like.  There was stuff on the schedule, of course.  We had a Youth Mission team headed off to Kentucky who were going to be blessed.  It was a communion sunday.  There was a post-worship Bible study on the docket.

But with the entire region walloped by a massive derecho, none of that was certain.  Communications were critically compromised.  There was no power, and it was the middle of a heat wave.  My phone was a pretty but almost useless brick.   In the few moments the overburdened 3G network had let me in, I'd managed a few emails and texts with our stalwart worship and arts elder, in which we agreed to keep it simple and play it by ear.  Maybe just a prayer, some lemonade, and a sendoff for the Mission team.   We'd see.

I arrived early, wending my way through debris, and stopping at one point to clear a country road of a fifteen foot branch that was blocking most of it.   Things at church were better than I'd expected.  The huge graceful tree sheltering the fellowship hall was undamaged.  The not-quite-as-huge tree next to the manse was also intact.  There was no power, of course, which meant that the sanctuary could have passed for a brick easy-bake oven.

More and more souls arrived, as did the communion elements, followed by more souls.  Though I was ready to do just a prayer, the Spirit felt there for a shortened service.    Chairs formed an impromptu semi-circle in the fellowship hall, which was at least 10 degrees cooler than the sanctuary thanks to the sheltering wings of that old tree.   A bustle of folks snagged stacks of hymnals.  A folding table received the elements.  A lectern slid into place.

And so my wee kirk worshipped, blue bulletins fanning all a-flutter.  The hymns I'd selected were...thank the Maker...all well-known and easily sung, and though we were a cappella, the room filled with strong voices and harmonies.  It was hot, but the room was filled with good cheer.

As I preached from the handwritten text I'd recreated by candlelight the night before, the sweet-salty taste of sweat touched my lips.  I lacked the necessary kerchief, so instead of mopping my brow with a South Georgia country pastor flourish at opportune pauses, I just let it run down my face.  The flavor of a good honest sweat was still there as we shared the Lord's Supper, mingling favorably with the sweet of the juice and the slight tang of the sourdough.

Afterwards, the cool of shade trees, watermelon, and lemonade made the lingering a pleasure.

Worship is always better when it's honest, real, and requires a teeny bit of sweat.