Because I have two separate pastorates, I have two worship services. I have already described the morning worship on the first Sunday of Advent. After some lunch, a brief nap and a chance to read over the afternoon service, I left for the second service. This was not our normal afternoon service.
To start with, we had scheduled a potluck supper after the worship, something we do several times a year. That meant the service would start later so that the supper would happen closer to actual supper time. It also meant some extra people who come because of the meal and the chance to visit with people over the supper. It also means that things are more hectic before worship begins as we juggle final arrangements for the supper with getting ready for worship. We also had to get the Advent Candle stuff set up, which meant scouring the building for a suitable table.
It was also a cloudy, dreary day which made the burned out bulbs in over half the light fixtures in the sanctuary very obvious. Since the fixtures are high and hard to get to, we tend not to pay much attention to them, until we all of a sudden realize half the sanctuary is in darkness and we need to do something–except the pre-worship discussion revealed that none of us had any good idea of how we were going to replace the bulbs,
With all that going on, I was kept fairly busy before worship began and didn’t realize until just before we began that in my worship preparation the week before, I had neglected to make sure my tablet and the bulletin were in sync. I forgot to add in the hymns to the order of service on the tablet and also forgot to add in the second special music slot. Fortunately, those were easy to remedy.
But things kept slipping. I announced the Advent Candle reading and sat down while the reader did that part of worship. And then, instead of standing to announce the offering, I forgot the offering, thinking the choir would sing, which they did–fortunately, other people seem to be able to pick up after me. I eventually got the offering in and worship continued. But when the choir did their next selection, I stood up, not realizing they were doing two pieces. The congregation had a bit of a laugh as the choir told me to sit down.
I was not at my best during that service. The activity and confusion before the service combined with a busy week leading to the worship meant that I was not as prepared as I should have been going into the worship and not as focused during the worship as I should have been. I did manage to include all the required bits and pieces, even if the order of service I was following didn’t always connect with the order of service printed in the bulletin.
Eventually, we reached the end of the service and most of us went to the church hall for our supper. But for me, the important thing was that in spite of all the confusion and my mistakes, we worshipped. It might not have been exactly as planned. I might have made more mistakes than normal. People might have been a bit distracted by the enticing smells coming from the hall. The dreary cloudy weather might have affected some of us, especially since the lack of adequate lighting made it hard to see the hymn books.
But in spite of all that, we worshipped God. We prayed, we sang, we presented our offerings and we heard and responded to God’s word to us for that day. We greeted each other, welcomed each other and enabled each other to be reminded of the reality of God in our lives so that we could together give him the worship he deserves.
I very much doubt that we will ever have a perfect setting for our worship. I would hope that we don’t always have as many issues as we had this afternoon but there will always be something. Our worship depends on our ability to remember the reality of God in the midst of the confusion of life. We worship not when things are perfect but because God is present and loving and graceful in the midst of the confusion and reality of life.
May the peace of God be with you.