August 3, 2006
I enjoy worshipping in other churches. "Enjoy." Hardly enough of a word. Nevertheless, I like sitting in the same pew with my beloved. And I am grateful for whatever milestone of my sanctification that has more recently allowed me to detach a bit from the role of critical, “expert” observer in someone else’s church service. For a long time, being a preacher in a strange pew meant feeling more like a restaurant critic suspiciously sampling dishes thank like a hungry-feeder wanting to be fed. But this summer I am laying low. There is too much emptiness in me not to sit back and worship the living God, not to see the terrible cross and hope for some Easter newness, and along the way to appreciate the terrible and wonderful humanity of those robed strangers in front of me who are leading me through another liturgy. As such, I appreciate the gift of worshipping in other churches. I like singing hymns with Elizabeth’s voice in my ear. I like discovering what is fascinatingly different in other traditions, as well as what appears ubiquitous among us all. I am depressed by the rampant informality; blessed by the occasional illumination. I deem a good thing for me as a preacher to feel a little lost sometimes, not knowing which hymnal I should have open or when to stand or where to look. I think it is good too, that my mind wanders during most sermons, as I should learn appreciate the fact that most minds probably wander during my own. Mostly, I am just offering up many small prayers of gratitude these days: for my strange life, my wonderful bride, and my lovely daughter. That seems just enough just now, and perhaps the best lesson for a sabbath time as this.
Written by Ralph W. Hawkins