Before “Mayhem” became the most humorous buzz word for an insurance company, another insurance company coined, “Life comes at you fast”. Both describe the way in which perfectly ordinary days can turn downright cantankerous. Forgetting to put your garage door up before backing out or, forgetting to stop in time when pulling into a garage can give your day a “patina of disaster” that will send you back to bed wondering what will come next.
This past Sunday was one of those days for me; but before I tell you about that, I should go back to the beginning of last week. My week began with a wonderful visit from my niece Bretta Ogburn and her son, Tyler. On vacation from his work in Atlanta, Tyler drove to Blairsville, Ga where he celebrated his birthday with family and then on Monday, he and his mom came to Sparta. They
raced a potential ice storm to get here but arrived safely. Tyler’s little Chihuahua mix, Astrid came along to visit Bella which worked. Both Tyler and his mom are artists, although their “art mediums” different, and it was wonderful to share inspiration with each other over the 4 days of their visit. I could go on and on bragging about how very gifted they both are – I am a proud aunt! Tyler is an amazing photographer and skilled theater costumer; Bretta does glass beads with lamp work, just one skill among so much else. She and her husband, Ward, have raised three wonderfully different, and talented children.
Leaving on Friday morning, they headed home as I prepared to welcome my friends from Fayetteville in the afternoon. Ruth Gillis and Mary Mac Shields came in the evening after stopping in Winston Salem on the way to visit our favorite shoe store, which was having a sale! I benefitted from the shoe sale with new pair of walking shoes! Enjoying our time together is easy for the three of us. Playing games like Bananagrams (a Scrabble-ish sort of game) and Dominoes keeps us real…we can argue like sisters at times and nearly cry laughing at others. It turned cold while they were here so we had built warm fires in the fireplace each evening. We were sitting in front of the fire reading late Saturday afternoon when our rector at Christ Church called. Sounding nothing like herself on the phone, she was quite sick with the WGA (what’s going around). Between the Flu virus which is nasty and the WGA it has already been a hard winter for folks here. Knowing that there were things that Stephanie needed to do on Sunday, I agreed to do the worship service and preach to lighten her load.
That brings me to Sunday, well actually, Saturday evening. Finding that the gospel lesson for Sunday was the calling of the disciples – the one from John’s gospel where Philip tells his friend Nathanael that Jesus is from Nazareth and Nathanael says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth!”, I began to feel a foreboding. How does one preach on that in the midst of the “politics” of the past week? Avoidance seemed prudent! I finished typing out a sermon to preach and hit “print”. Nothing happened and so began an attempt to fix the issue which after a while just seemed like wasted time.
I got up early on Sunday and scribbled my sermon onto some paper by hand. Everything was going well as I got ready until I couldn’t find my makeup bag. In the great scheme of things cosmetics may not seem big but with 3 women in the house using one bathroom, it can create some anxiety. Getting in the car, Mary Mac and I left Ruth to figure out lunch and deal with the chaos we had left behind! Onward to church! But no, halfway there I remembered my vestments for the service, so we went back. Ruth met us at the door with both my vestments and my phone, and we were off again. Getting back onto HWY 21 N, my adrenaline found it’s outlet in pushing the gas pedal…until I saw the blue lights behind me. Pulling off the road, Mary Mac took charge of praying. My window wouldn’t roll down (frozen shut) so I had to open the door. Hoping the patrolman could see my clerical collar, I explained my dilemma. He took my license and in a few moments he came back with a warning and a smile. BE CAREFUL were his parting words. We got to the church in plenty of time and I headed to the room to put on my vestments. Most everyone was still downstairs at the education program but those of us moving around in the sanctuary noticed right away how cold it was. The thermometer said 47 – inside! Frozen lines accounted for the lack of heat so we began to move everything downstairs for church. Through all of this I had remained reasonably calm…or at least numb. But when I stood up to preach and realized that scribbled notes in pencil were virtually unreadable without my glasses (which were upstairs), I began to wonder if I was on candid camera? And was that word” peas”, or “peace”, or” place”?
I know that at some point I heard the angels laughing at all my false starts and machinations! But incredibly, as it always seems to be, Jesus was there to meet us at the table with his presence. It was, as I said in one of my moments of homiletic clarity,” that moment when heaven’s peace and unity, touches the earthly realm, in all of its imperfection, and we glimpse the reality that is God’s reality.” It is that moment that gives me hope in the midst of this earthly confusion. Thanks be to God!