Friday, June 6, 2008

O Me of Little Faith

Today I had a funeral at 11:00 a.m. I had a careful checklist of details to remember so that the service would go smoothly: turn on sound and fix up microphones, set lecturn Bible to lessons, make sure that the altar is set for communion, practice sermon and make corrections, put out pall for the casket. All of a sudden at 10:40, I noticed that the organist wasn't here yet! What?! I had just corresponded with him by e-mail, and suddenly I had the thought: yeah, but how do I know that he really did got that information about today? I dialed his cell phone -- and about 2 minutes later he walked in the door.

"Don't doubt me!' he said. "I'm always here!" This is true, but I explained that it wasn't him that I was doubting; it was email; it's a great modern convenience; sometimes I don't know what I would do without it. And yet, there have been a couple of times when someone has said, "What email?"

The truth is, though: it's not just email I doubt. There's a reason that the Youth Easter Sunrise Service caused me the most anxiety of any worship service over the entire year. It's because I did not have absolute and total control over everything that happened, including whether everyone would show up at sunrise. They always did. But still, I didn't sleep well the evening before Easter. O me of little faith.

My work requires me to work in partnership with other staff and with lay leaders on a variety of projects: worship, Bible study, service projects, youth. I know incredibly gifted people who bring gifts I don't possess. I feel privileged to serve with creative people, good organizers, great cooks, compassionate visitors, insightful Bible study participants and co-leaders. And I am also plagued with doubts: what if the communion servers don't show up? What if the microphones don't get turned on? What if the the visitors don't do their calls? What if....? well, you get the picture.

Of course, every once in awhile, something crashes and burns. But more often than not, everyone, including me, rises to the occasion. And I can hear my Lord whispering in my ear, "O ye of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Truth is, trust is one of the most essential components of human community, and also one of the hardest to achieve. A few people trust too much and too indiscriminately, but most of us trust others too little. We need each other's opinions, talents, strengths; we even need each other's failures, weaknesses and hesitations. I do think that's true.

And then there is the ultimate trust: the trust that even when life crashes and burns, even when those we counted on don't show up, even when we don't show up for someone else, God raises us up, heals us and calls us again, saying, "follow me.'


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Thanks for being honest about a struggle many of us have. In your case, I don't think it's necessarily wrong to have a contingency plan in your head in case someone doesn't show up. After all, you are dealing with momentous events in people's lives, and you don't want to have a funeral or a wedding go wrong if you can prevent it.

I think the problem comes more when we treat people as though we don't trust them. For example, if you called your organist times before every single service where he was supposed to play. Or if you went around the sanctuary after the altar guild and redid their flowers or banners for a special service because they didn't do it as you would have.

As with so many things in the Christian life, it's a fine balance to maintain--taking responsibility while trusting others. And it's one of those areas where we can probably always improve.

Funky Grampa said...

Lift up your heart!
Celebrating God’s healing grace deserves careful preparations and beauty in performance.
Can a ragged execution be a powerful witness to this grace for a broken world?
Can a frayed soul mend with a morsel of broken off bread? Happens with remarkable regularity. Alleluia!

Diane said...

by the way: welcome, funky grampa! thanks for commenting (again).

FranIAm said...

What can I say - this is so true. I am reminded of Ruth's recent posting about her dog parables.

Choralgirl said...

First, let me say that I totally get it; I have that worry, too. I've been working on it (knowing that I'm a bit of a control freak, left to my own devices)...working on just trusting.

I rarely find God in the moments of the Clampdown.

I often find God "peek-a-boo-ing" me in the moments of the unexpected.

Thanks be to God. :-)

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

i suspect it is a common struggle for most clergy to "go with the flow" rather than trying to direct the stream's current ourself...

Ivy said...

I tend to be a "go with the flow-er" and don't always pay attention to the details as much as I should. Diane, you are blessed to have such committed, capable people in your congregation. Thanks for sharing. Peace.

Lindy said...

Humm... "Control" sure is coming up a lot these days. I'm hearing that as an issue in several contexts... Interesting.

LawAndGospel said...

Sticking my head up for the first time since starting CPE at the Regional Trauma Center. I really identified with and enjoyed this post. And for me this week it was trusting that others would help me adjust, support my learning and even trusting what I was taught really would get me through the trauma calls. How right of you to conclude as you did!