What a couple of weeks!
I guess I’ll go back two weeks. It was a busier week than usual. I had my normal preparation for Sunday worship but on top of that I was scheduled to preach at the first of our ecumenical worship services down at the park by the lake. When the pastor organizing the services told me they figured on a 25 to 30 minute sermon I thought to myself, "I’ve never preached that long in my life!" Well, I did come up with a longer than usual sermon about Abraham and Sarah and their relationship with God. The focus was more on God’s mercy and grace in the face of all of their constant screwing up which translates better to our situations than trying to use Abe and Sarah as examples for living. I think the point of those old stories is what God does not what the people do, or else what God does in response to what people do.
But, the day before that busy Sunday, July 1, Canada Day (our equivalent to your July 4 holiday for any American readers), I was to preside at a memorial service. Another sermon to begin with, and an interesting dynamic with the family and those who came to the funeral. The gentleman who died had been a member of our church years ago. I don’t know what church, if any, he’d been attending lately. I certainly didn’t know him from my 4 years here. His only son and his daughter-in-law are members of the LC-C church around the corner (that’s like Missouri Synod for any American readers). I was surprised when the funeral home called and asked if I could do the service. I thought they’d ask their pastor. But I was willing to do this for them. I know the daughter-in-law a bit because she’s the organist there and we’ve had her play for some funerals at our church when our organist wasn’t able to be there.
There’s some stuff going on at that church and I don’t know all the details. We’ve had 7 people from there come over to our church and tell me that they definitely, or some possibly, want to become members here. What I’m hearing is that they’re tired of Close(d) Communion practices in that denomination and the fact that women aren’t allowed to take (m)any leadership roles in the church, not even to read the scripture lessons from the lectern on a Sunday morning. I’m also hearing rumours that there may be more to it but these two issues are what I’ve been hearing first hand.
Back to my last couple of weeks.
The evening of the worship service in the park, I drove down with my family and got there realizing I didn’t have my sermon with me. So I dropped them off, we were plenty early, and I drove back home to get my sermon. Got into the van to drive back to the park and the van breaks down right in front of the house. It sounded like tin cans were being crushed in the transmission. So I drive down in the second car, the one not big enough to carry our family of 6, and do my thing at the service and now we’re destined for car shopping.
Next day is Monday, I take it off in lieu of the Saturday holiday, brother comes for a visit and to give my youngest his birthday present a day early. Next day is Tuesday, July 4, our baby’s 4th birthday. My parents come for a visit. I don’t kill myself with work in the office since I haven’t had all of my days off lately plus I want to visit with my parents and celebrate my son’s birthday.
Then comes Wednesday, July 5, the beginning of our Synod Assembly. I’m leaving my wife and the kids stranded without a vehicle. Our lay delegate is being dropped off and we’re driving 2 hours together to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario for our 5 day convention. For the most part I like these conventions. I get to catch up with old friends with whom I’m terrible at staying in touch. We get to worship as a synod and the pomp and ceremony and musicianship (usually) is so uplifting. It’s generally a great experience.
On Thursday morning I get to the assembly hall and am handed a message. "Call home. There has been a death." So I get on the phone with the secretary, with my wife, with the funeral home, hoping that they can hold off with the funeral until Monday so that I can be there and do it, otherwise I have to find someone else to do it and all the Lutherans are at the convention, maybe the new Anglican priest (here less than 2 weeks) can do it for me. I’m hearing that the husband (now widower) wants to wait but there is some disagreement with a brother and an executor/power of attorney who wants it on Saturday. They agree on Monday. Not much time to prepare but I can swing it.
Thursday afternoon in the first report of the Committee on Reference and Council we’re presented with a motion to allow congregations a local option to perform the blessing of same-gender couples who want to make a life-long commitment to one another in the presence of God and their community of faith. Actually there are 7 motions made asking for this in one way or another. Last year our National Church Convention defeated such a motion 55% to 45%. This year our Synod passed virtually the same motion 72.4% to 27.6%. I wasn’t surprised the motion appeared. I wasn’t surprised it passed. I was surprised by the size of the majority. I expected it to be somewhat closer. I was impressed, and the bishop also commented, on how respectfully the convention engaged in the discussion of this challenging issue. There wasn’t nearly the same amount of tension and stress as last year at the national convention, or even in 2004 when our synod passed a statement of welcome to people regardless of gender, race, ancestry, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, age, record of offences, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status, family status, or disability.
The rest of the assembly was pretty tame. We had a great keynote presentation from Kathy Magnus, Lutheran World Federation Regional Officer for North America. There was discouraging news about finances, especially regarding Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. But I think we’re people of hope and I think we can become a more generous church. It might just take some creativity and prophetic utterances to make it happen.
Back on the home front my wife is researching vans, and what do we buy to replace our old crippled one. The old van, a 1996 Ford Windstar, is 10 years old (I guess you could do the math and know that, eh?) so it’s not really worth fixing in our opinion because at that age it won’t be long before something else goes wrong. A nearby used car dealer actually lets my wife test drive a Nissan Quest for a number of days. So she wasn’t stranded after all. But from her research it seems the Quest has pretty low customer satisfaction and reliability ratings. It seems the top of the heap are Toyota Siennas and Honda Odysseys. So, after Monday’s funeral, we go car shopping. A sister-in-law has been looking around for us too and said there were some in Burlington, an hour away but where our families live. We went to look at them, found a 2003 Honda we liked at the Toyota dealer in Oakville (yes a Honda from the Toyota dealer), stayed over night with our families, and brought the new van home yesterday.
It’s a nifty van (I know, nobody says nifty anymore) and looks like it’s never been driven, certainly not by anyone with children. Now we’ve got to get rid of our old transmissionless Windstar. We’ve actually had two people show interest in it.
The funeral on Monday went pretty well. I went to visit the husband/widower on Sunday evening. He cried a lot. I asked him if he had any requests as far as hymns or scripture readings for the service. He left it up to me (I chose LBW 272 "Abide with Me"; LBW 346 "When Peace, like a River"; and LBW 501 "He Leadeth Me: Oh, Blessed Thought!" for the hymns and Ps 23; Rom 8.31-35, 37-39; Jn 11.21-27 for the readings). We talked, we prayed, I went to the office and worked late Sunday night to get a sermon written, and the next day we had a funeral.
Now I’ve got the rest of today and tomorrow to get a sermon written for Sunday. I take Fridays and Saturdays off so I like to be done by Thursday evening.
I spent some time with a good friend at the assembly. She found her way to this blog and keeps telling me I’m not thinking often enough. Here it is Dini. I’ve got some fun plans for tomorrow evening but I’ll post them tomorrow (that’s my plan but not a promise).