Sunday, July 7, 2013

One saturated hour

I wrote this back in January 2013, just after Light of the World's founding pastor had been called to a new ministry and I was swimming in a mixture of love for the community and grief for its loss.  Today, when we scrambled for floor fans to relieve ourselves of the sweltering heat, and we wished we were lucky enough to be a baby baptized in cool water, I remembered January.

In seminary, we sometimes talk about God and time.

There are two words for "time" in Greek:  chronos and kairos.  Chronos is the word that becomes chronological -- the order in which things happen.  Chronos time is seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, millenia.  Chronos time is countable.

Kairos time isn't chronological.  It's squishable, squeezable, stretchable.  Kairos time is the moment that feels like forever, the minute packed dense with emotion.  Kairos time is relative time, time that stretches and compacts.  

Kairos time, for me, is Sunday morning, when so very much happens in just a few hours.

The worship leaders circle up, with fifteen minutes to go.  We pray.  We hope.  We try to get out of the way and let the Spirit do the work.  I call on one of our confirmation kids to choose the cheer that ends our prayer:  "1-2-3, Yay God," or "God's work, our hands."  His eyes flare with surprise and then a hint of pride.  We leaders split, to our guitars, our nametags, our coffee pots, our running kids.  I join the greeters in the hallway.

A couple that's been on vacation for a few weeks is back, cheeks red, eyes beaming.  The communion bread appears ten minutes before worship, just-baked and still-warm.  I graze my hand over a baby's head, greeting his dad before the service.  Suddenly there are little arms around my leg, a pleased and quick hug from one of our kids.  A teacher and mom bumps into me with a cardboard box, and laughs, sarcastically, "Excuse me, excuse me" as she bumps me again and again until I laugh.

The first song begins with a shake and stutter, and yet the congregation sighs out "Holy, holy, holy" like a breath held for a week.  I pray, and the words come in swells and rushes, like a wave under my swimming arms; all I can do is ride the crest and foam.  

The sermon eases us gently into our seats, rocking our chests with laughter, then slowly reaching in around our hearts.

We share the peace, and arms go round my shoulders like a blanket made of promise.

I beg the Spirit to show up, to speak, and when she does, it's with a rush of wind disguised as slowly spoken words about family and community and love.

I look into fifty-odd sets of eyes and say, over and over, "This is the body of Christ, broken for you."  Our gluten-free kid reaches for the rice cracker I put out for her every week.

I forget where we are in the service.  I stand and stare at my bulletin, and finally look out at the assembly -- "Are we at community time?  Is that where we are?"  They all laugh.  There is love and grace enough even for the leader who gets lost.

The kids rush forward during the final song, joining hands and pulling each other in a circle, tripping over their snowboots.  When we dismiss the congregation together, their arms spread wider and gladder than mine when we say, "Go in peace, serve the Lord."  And then they're off, in a rush for the cookie trays before Sunday School begins.

The band packs up.  The mikes come down, the chairs are put away.  I turn in my microphone, the one marked "Assistant," which is more true now than ever. 

I touch the elbow of a parishioner -- someone I don't know well -- who's just lost a family member, and he trusts me enough to let me into his mourning.

The altar's left untouched today: the wine and bread waiting to be poured out, cups and plates to be washed and wrapped till next week.  One of the many "duties not otherwise specified" that falls to the intern pastor, some weeks, and this week is mine.

I sneak a bite of a hunk of bread, thick and full of molasses.

Bread of the Presence.

People of the light of the world.

How can so much happen in one saturated hour?

But in the presence of God, how could anything less?

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