Monday, October 31, 2005

I Feel Good (title must be read with the voice of James Brown)

I love Sundays.

Well, most of the time.

Yesterday was a great day in church.

I had breakfast with the members in Fellowship Hall. The services went well. I did a baptism in one of the services. I preached a sermon I felt good about, and looking to next week my Associate will preach this coming Sunday. Then my wife and I went to lunch together and there were no committee meetings to attend during the afternoon or evening -- always a great thing!

After lunch, we went to the Muvico to see Zorro.

OK -- here's one of my sins. Actually a couple of them. First, I think you should sneak in your own popcorn in order to save money. My wife plays by the rules :( She believes in signs and there is a sign that says, "no outside food or drink."

Second, Zorro started at 2:15. It is a 2 hour and 10 minute movie. That means we should have been able to go to Capote at 4:35. If you are going to pay more money for popcorn and Coke than you would pay for a lobster, you should do a little theater hopping. My wife, however, insists on one movie per ticket.

So we went to the one movie -- pure fantasy and escapism. I think I needed that.

I've been feeling down lately.

I find myself thinking of my Dad a lot -- he died in July.

I haven't slept well in days. The only souvinier I brought back from Haiti were nightmares. In reality I held a tiny baby in my arms as it died. In my dreams, I have been holding that baby every night since coming home. Sometimes I look down at the baby and realize it is my child who died.

I didn't like Wilma.

The house is dark on the second floor because the hurricane shutters are still in place.

I've decided my youngest son can forget college -- I'm buying those motorized hurricane shutters. One push of the button and your home is protected.

I'm more than depressed, I've been grumpy!

Then Sunday came and all seems to be right with the world again.

Or as James Brown would sing, "I feel good."

And it wasn't Zorro that made me feel good.

It was even getting to see Catherine Zeta Jones on the big screen, although that might have had a little to do with it.

It was worship.

Often times those of us who design worship make it out to be all joy and praise. We become Reverend Feel Goods, sort to speak. We succomb to the notion that at the end of the service everyone has to be able to say with a James Brown voice, "I feel good."

That way, they will come back next week.

But Sunday's service had elements of Reformation Sunday and All Saints' Day wrapped into one. (We used to do an All Saints' Day worship, but nobody would come to the often mid-week worship -- so now we fold it into the Sunday service).

There is a time in the service when we invite people to stand and say the name of someone in their family or among their friends who has died in the past year. The Clerk of Session stands first (for non-Presbyterians, he is the secretary of the governing body of the local church). He reads the list of the names of members who died during the past year, and their date of death. Then others take turns in standing and giving a name.

"Adam, my cousin."

"Beth, my long time friend."

"Cindy, my mother."

I should have mentioned my Dad, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that. But as people grew silent I asked once more, "Is there anyone else we want to remember?"

One of the members stood and said, "David, our pastor's father."

And I just wept.

And I hate to cry. It makes my face look horrible, clogs my sinuses and in general makes me feel like an idiot.

I was supposed to lead in a prayer at that point, but thankfully my Associate Pastor stood up to lead us in prayer.

God does not promise joy and a painless life -- I think it is one of the shortcomings of contemporary Christian music and contemporary worship is that they lack agony.

I think the road to real joy takes us through pain and sorrow. We shouldn't be looking for ways to avoid the agonies of life. We should discover how to handle them.

This morning -- I feel good.


Blogger ~**Dawn**~ said...

the actual quote escapes me at the moment but it was something along the lines of "the way i see it, to get the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain". you also made me think of a line in a song i really like: "you can't really smile until you've shed some tears" ("Awful Beautiful Life" by Daryl Worley). i don't think we can truly appreciate the good moments until we've had some hard times to compare them to.

11:55 AM  
Blogger doodlebugmom said...

Good for you wife! Following the movie rules. I must say, your movie hopping comment surprised me. Just because movies are expensive doent give anyone the right to cheat the theater. Two movies on one ticket is stealing.

Sorry to hear of the loss of your father. Emotions are a powerful thing. ANd nothing to be ashamed of.

12:19 PM  
Blogger The Pastor said...

I almost wept myself as I read your post. Death hurts. It stinks. And yet, it is part of life. I shall be in prayer for you in the days ahead. As doodlebugmom said, crying is nothing to be ashamed of. It simply affirms your love for him was and is real.

1:51 PM  
Blogger The Pastor said...

oh, you can reach me at:

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Every now and then our blogs seem to converge on topics of joy and sorrow. I was writing from kind of a similar state of mind in my recent post "Give me strength (thoughts on Eph 3)".

Thanks for your encouragement a couple of days ago - just what I needed!

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apostle John,

I agree with you wholeheartedly about the perceived "loss of lament" we have sustained in mainline American worship. Somewhere along the way, it became taboo to lament.

But as you well know, the Biblical witness is full of laments. One need look no further than the Psalms for evidence of Israel's lamenting.

But as Walter Brueggemann says, in the Biblical narrative, our laments are directed TO someone. We are in dialogical relationship with our God, and in the dialogue, we work through our pain and anguish. We are compelled to speak our laments, because we beleive in a God who is with us and for us.

Anyway, sorry for the theology lecture. I am truly sorry to hear about your father. The reading of names is a powerful and cathartic liturgical statement. I wish more churches used it!

Grace and peace,

7:12 PM  
Blogger Chickie said...

I'm with you on sneaking in your own movie snacks but I'm with your wife on no screen hopping. I'd be too afraid that the movie police would come in and drag me out.

I'm glad you're back to feeling good.

1:42 PM  
Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

Will the second coming of Jesus Christ be announced on an Internet blog site first? See Holy Inheritance blog:

7:58 PM  
Blogger Sozo said...

I just had the chance to come by after you visited my blog. Sorry it has taken a few days but I am sure you know how it is with pastoral ministry. I first wanted to say I am sorry to hear about your father. Also I am sure that your experience with that baby will leave a permanent mark on your life. But I see that Christ ministered to you at sunday worship. Isn't that great. I recommend you read Unquenchable Worshipper by Matt Redman. There is a place where he says that we need to worship even in lowly states in our lives. David did numerous times. I praise God he lifted you up in a time of need. Once again thanks for visiting my blog. Hope to check back soon.

12:35 PM  
Blogger yuene said...


I agree with you wholeheartedly about the recent dearth in Christians who can see their sufferings as a way to grow in God.

While I'm not advocating that we should go out to look for suffering a la Simon Stylites, I think that a lot of Christians tend to look for ways to avoid ever having to experience hardship--then again, it is a by-product of sermons that emphasize that we should only expect the good things from God. A friend of mine refuses to believe that God would give her anything less than the best: in terms of grades, boyfriend (he has to fit her criteria completely!) anything, really...but her idea of what is best for her might not really be the best for her, if you get what I mean...anyway I'm rambling here....

Anyway, glad to hear you're feeling better.

10:28 AM  

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