I went to church yesterday. Actually, I am one of the pastors, so saying that "I went to church" is a bit of an understatement. But, that's my story, and I am sticking to it.
It was Reformation Sunday. Even though we are in the Narrative Lectionary this year and the Bible story featured the wisdom of Solomon rather than The truth that will set you free (John chapter 8) or the grace that justifies (Romans 3), it was still Reformation Sunday.
We were instructed to wear red, and many of us did, although those who did not wear red were not turned away. Somehow it seemed like the crowds were a little bigger this Sunday, although I don't think it was because everyone suddenly remembered that it was Reformation Sunday, that great festival of grace, faith and Scripture alone (at least for Lutherans). I saw some people I hadn't seen for a few weeks, and that always feel good to me.
So it seemed festive in worship. We had a a great choir anthem based on words from Psalm 46. I even got to sing this week. (I am sure that is why we sounded so good.) A parish member gave a wonderful reflection about why she gives, and testified to why our congregation has been such an important place in the life of her family. The other pastor gave a heart-felt sermon on the wisdom of Solomon, and what it means to be wise.
The bells played. I prayed the prayers of the church (and, to be honest, stumbled a little. Everything was not perfect). We offered ourselves to God, in one way or another. We shared bread and wine.
At the close of the service, I invited people to come forward if they would like individual prayers for healing and anointing. A few people did come forward. We do this every month on the last Sunday or the month, and sometimes the lines are really long. Sometimes there are just a few people.
But I have come to love this practice. It is not because I am the best heartfelt pray-er in the world. I am heartfelt, and I do my best, but I imagine that there are others who are better than I am. It is not that I don't love the other parts of worship, either, especially the songs. I do love the songs. I love singing, all together.
I have come to love this practice because of the little tiny glimpses into people's lives, joys and struggles, the secrets people trust me to pray for, and not to share. I pray for small things, and big things, for grandchildren and grandparents, for relationships, for health, for comfort in grieving. Sometimes the word I can speak is just the tiniest word, but it is something. I say my tiny words, and give everything to Jesus. That's all I can do.
Some people come for themselves, but many people come requesting prayers and healing for someone else. I put the oil on their head, and give thanks for them, and then we pray for the other person, or people who are on their hearts.
I have come to love this practice, perhaps because the tiny little glimpses I see there give me hope. The tiny little glimpses are glimpses of faith, hope, and love. I see faith and hope and love in the eyes and words of people who stand in line, waiting for a word from me, the tiniest word, sometimes. There is faith and hope that something can change, our words and actions can make a difference, that salvation is real and takes many forms. Faith and hope.
But the greatest of these is love: Love that draws people forward for the sake of someone else, to ask for prayers on their behalf. Love that hopes for healing, comfort, reconciliation.
The greatest of these is love.
Here I stand. I can do no other.