Random thoughts: This past Sunday, in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up with a gut renching virus that forced me to my knees before the porcelain throne.Â In 25 years of preaching, I think that this was only the second Sunday in which I was too sick to lead worship.Â Â I felt oddly calm about the necessity of surrendering my pulpit, and in a few moments of abdominal steadiness, telephoned Darryl, a willing layperson in my church, asking him to please pull together a couple of people to improvise a worship service in my absence.Â He embraced the challenge without hesitation.Â Â AtÂ about the same timeÂ that worship was beingÂ convened, I was finally falling into a sound sleep that would mark the end of my upchucking.Â I was pretty much back to normal within 48 hours. Today I got a chance to listen to the tape of the service. David, Bob and Darryl divided up the parts of the service and did a marvelous, inspired job. Â We ordained clergy rarely think of it this way, but since our calling is to “equip the saints for ministry”, ideally we should be working ourselves out of a job. The tape lead me to believe Iâ€™m doing a pretty good job in this regard.
A few weeks back it occured to me thatÂ a labyrinth would be a good thing for us to experience on Ash Wednesday, and so this past Saturday some willing folks gathered Saturday and put down a temporary labyrinth on the floor of our fellowship hall as I largely stood around and watched.Â Â At our worship onÂ Ash Wednesday evening, congregants flowed from the altar in the sanctuary where I had anointed them with ashes, to the fellowship hall where they walked the labyrinth by candlelight, flowing into the center, and then out again.Â The labyrinthÂ provided aÂ new experience for most folks, but people of all ages — two year olds to octogenarians — gave themselves over to it, again, quite willingly. Five little brothers and sisters, ages two to six processed with great reverence and shining eyes, one by one to kneel at the altar that I might make the sign of the cross on their forehead, and then happily, merrily walked the winding ways of the labyrinth. God moments happened for me, thatâ€™s for sure. â€œUnless you turn and become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.â€ ****
An important new movie is being released Friday.Â Entitled â€œAmazing Graceâ€œ,Â it tells the storyÂ of William Wilborforce who willingly responded to the flow of God’s grace to work to set God’s people free,Â leading the movement to abolish slavery in the British Empire is being released this Friday. John Newton, the slave trader who gave his life to Jesus and quit the dirty business of treating human beings with eternal souls as objects for profit –Â and then pennedÂ the all time favorite hymn praising grace –Â appears in his old age to play the role of spiritual guide to the young William; hence the title of the movie. From what I can tell, the film aspires to offer the very best of what a movie canÂ be in terms of telling a story well and inspiring a truly Christian, deeply moral vision of life. Â Sadly, it isnâ€™t being offered but in a handful of theaters in New Jersey.Â The movie houses are more ready to book the films that don’t aspire to as much as “Amazing Grace” does; these films seem more reliable in terms of selling tickets.Â