Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…
There is a gentleman I play golf with who is what I might generously refer to as “methodical.” Others refer to him as agonizingly slow, as in, “Hit the flipping ball, let’s go!”. If someone dares mutter such a comment that’s the kiss of death because then he has to start all over again… take his stance, two practice swings, readdress the ball, four looks, two waggles, one more look at the target and then a swing. Which often results in a less than satisfying outcome, which is simply a nice way of saying he is awful. Meanwhile, another gentleman has already hit the ball three times moving in a generally forward direction.
“Does it bother you to be so bad?” mutters another in the group.
So goes the playful banter. No one is safe, not even retired clergy. “Hey, that’s not fair, you can’t accept outside help!” cries out one of my mates. My errant drive had headed deep into the woods to which I had shouted, “I could use some help here!” only to have my ball carom back into the center of the fairway. Full of pastoral concern I respond, “You know, you guys could take advantage of the same help.” It would be un-pastoral of me to record their specific retorts. Suffice to say there is typically not a lot of “Jesus” in their responses. I smile.
I like to regularly let them know that every thing I spend playing golf with them is a tax write-off because they are nothing but a mission project. They don’t argue. Our group is anywhere from 5-16 players on a given day. It is all about laughter and the periodic golf shot worthy of a back slap. Our relative skill level ranges from pretty good to embarrassing. But, as one of the stalwarts is prone to say, “We are a pretty accommodating group.” Golf is just the excuse we have to gather together. Weather be damned.
I like liturgy. Each golfer has a ritual they go through before each shot. It is never completely surprising if an individual’s effort concludes with a thrown club (never me). We all have liturgies we ritually live out in life. Probably most of them simply reflect repetitive behaviors that provide security, meaning and joy to our life (though others may ascribe a less positive attitude).
I love liturgy in worship. My religious practice in life has led me to all sorts of churches, synagogues, Friends Meetings, Temples, and places of devotion. From high church to low church every gathering has their own liturgies. Even those assemblies that pride themselves in being “Spirit led” there exists a predictability in their order of worship.
Covid changed much of our liturgical practices. From how we shop to how we worship. Liturgies have changed. There used to be a specific liturgy for bringing our gifts, our offerings. Offering plates would be passed down the rows where gifts would be placed. Many of us used offering envelopes. As parents we used the offering plate as an important opportunity to teach our children about gladly bringing our financial gifts to be used for God’s work. In many churches the plates would then be brought forward where the presiding minister would lift them up in an expression of gratitude while the congregation would sing, “We Give Thee but Thine Own.” Things change, church practices change.
You are part of a very generous congregation. Be thankful. Out of fear of germs we quit passing offering plates. Out of gratitude you continue to generously bless the ministry of Trinity. We no longer practice a corporate experience, a liturgy if you will, of bringing our gifts forward during worship. Now we practice the individual discipline of placing gifts in the Narthex Offering Box, sending financial gifts electronically or putting a check in the mail. Our support has remained strong as you have taken to heart the mantra of “Blessed to be a blessing.”
Liturgical practices change. Might I suggest one more small liturgical change. However you leave your gifts for Christ’s ministry at Trinity, leave it with a small prayer.
“Thank you Lord for your generous blessings. And thank you