Perhaps it’s time for some rambling this morning. I’m up early, so, why not? It’s been over a week since I blogged. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to blog about…trust me…God still continues to have a sense of humor. He laughs at me everyday, and He has done much to remind me not to take myself too seriously. He has dropped little hints around to remind me that He’s still in control, and He takes His greatest joy in helping me to stay humble. Here’s proof:
It’s my first Sunday in this new appointment (my first, mind you!). Now, I’m no technological whiz by any means, but I can, at least, turn a computer on, create a blog page and monitor facebook. I figure, I’m starting a new appointment, this is the 21st Century, and I want to “do things differently” than my predecessor, so what do I do? I show up my first Sunday to preach and I have no bible or sermon notes. I have only my new tablet computer (nope, not an ipad–that might have been my first mistake), and I’m going to dazzle this new congregation with my technological savvy and read the bible and preach my sermon using only my tablet. This’ll be great!
My first Sunday was June 30, which, by the way, is the Sunday before July 4th. The congregation was only having one service (we normally have 3), so the house is packed. Everyone wanted to show up and hear the new guy (yes, that’s right, it’s all about me), and I was ready to impress. The time comes for me to preach. I take my tablet and open my bible app to read the scripture. It opens right where it’s supposed to open. The first sentence of the text is at the bottom of the screen. I drag my finger across the screen to move the page…and it skips a page. I page it back. It goes back to the opening screen. There’s the first sentence of the text. Okay. I read it again…swipe my finger again, and…it skips a page. I can’t read my text. No, I didn’t memorize it. All I can think is…well, I can’t write what I actually thought (no, I’m not the perfect pastor), but let’s just say, my temperature jumps a few degrees and my face reddens. A third attempt and I get the same result. My bible app on my tablet actually has page numbers. On this morning, it decides to jump from page 1091 to 1093. No page 1092, which is where the rest of my text for the morning resides.
I do the only thing I know to do. I step out of the pulpit, step down to the congregation, and there, on the front row, a first-time visitor sits holding one of the pew bibles open to my chosen text. He reaches out, with saving grace, and offers me the bible. How do I know he was a first-time visitor (no, not because he was sitting on the front row)? It just so happened I was standing in the hallway by the door when he came in, and I introduced myself to him. Here’s just one of the funny parts of the story: The man introduces himself as a pastor from another denomination who isn’t preaching this day and decided to visit with us (Seriously?). Anyway, he was my saving grace on my first Sunday. He was actually one of the few people who picked up the pew bible to follow along.
All I could think of was how embarrassed I felt, and how embarrassing it was going to be if my tablet failed to open my sermon notes. Luckily, the tablet functioned properly when I got to my sermon, which is a good thing, because I had no back-up plan. I’m sure the guest on the front row was not going to miraculously pull out my sermon notes had the tablet failed. All-in-all, it was a very humbling reminder that God is in control, and he must have figured I needed a little humbling that first Sunday. In case you’re wondering, I’ve carried my old-fashioned bible to the pulpit with me every Sunday since. It always works!
So, the second Sunday I show up to preach. I’ve done my work diligently all week, and again, I get my notes ready to preach…on my tablet. We’re back on schedule with three services. I rise to preach at the 8:30 a.m. service, swipe my finger across my tablet, my sermon notes appear, and I’m good to go. I begin preaching, lay my tablet down on the communion rail for a moment, and when I pick it back up…no notes. The tablet shut itself down. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. IT WON’T COME BACK ON! God! Really! You’re doing this to me again? What deep theological statement are you trying to make, Lord? Or, are you just trying to embarrass me in this new congregation? A thousand things are going through my mind. I try to be cool. Can’t show my frustration here. Just gotta’ do what I gotta’ do.
I go to plan B (yes, I had a plan B this week, and it did not include any member of the congregation). I was prepared for any eventuality this week. I emailed myself a copy of my sermon, and I just happened to have it on my phone (now there’s a smartphone for you). I pulled my phone out of its holster, swiped a couple of times, and voila, there was my sermon. Do you know how awkward it feels to hold your smartphone in your hand while your preaching? Really awkward. But, it worked. Two Sundays down. Two glaring reminders that I might be a little too big for my breeches.
I figured the Lord had sufficiently humbled me over those two weeks, but I was wrong. The third Sunday arrives and we’ve got two baptisms scheduled for the 10:50 a.m., worship. I’m excited because these will be my first baptisms in the new congregation. I’m really getting to be a pastor now! Right? Right! The time comes for the parents and infants to come forward. They’re all dressed in their best baptism togs. It’s a beautiful scene. I begin the baptism liturgy, doing my best to ask the questions to the parents in a serious tone. I get to the final question before we consecrate the water, I remind the parents of the serious nature of the vow they are taking, and all of the sudden, in the same moment I see IT, I hear IT. IT is so loud, I thought to myself, that had to pick up on the microphone. SQUISH! SPLAT! And, like IT had been shot out of a cannon, IT shoots out all over the dad’s shirt and tie, and starts piling up on the floor in front of the communion rail. IT is everywhere, the dad looks down, and all he can say is, “Now? Really?” I look around, and it’s all my associate can do to contain himself. I look at the dad. All I can think to say is, “I think we need a diaper.” Mom and grandmother are scrambling, and I’m thinking, “God, what do you have planned for week number 4?” After the parents and grandparents have cleaned IT up, I look at the parents and say, “I think I should ask that last question again.”
Well, the babies got baptized. It was a memorable moment made even more memorable by IT, and I’m sure that story will get told at the little boy’s wedding, but it reminded me one more time that God is in control, that everything I am and have, I have because of His grace. The Lord took three weeks to remind me that I ought not think too much myself, that there are just too many things beyond my control.
I’ve looked around over the past couple of weeks and I can only think how blessed I am to be where I am. It would be so easy for me to buy into the idea that I deserve to be where I am, that I’ve worked hard and earned a spot at one of the best (I think THE best) churches in our Annual Conference. The truth is I don’t deserve to be here. I am here by God’s grace, and He is in control.
That’s life, though. None of us deserve anything (regardless of what advertisers tell us). All of life is grace. The Apostle Paul reminds us that what we deserve is death, but what we receive is life in Jesus Christ. I’m wondering if what God was reminding me on these three Sundays was, “What you deserve is IT, but I can take a little bit of water and demonstrate to you and to the world that I make all things new.” Now, that’s what I call grace.
Okay, you’ve got my attention, Lord. It’s not about me. I’m sufficiently humbled (for now), and I really can’t wait to see what you have for us next.
Until next time, keep looking up…