For one reason or another, it has taken me a few days to sit down and reflect on this past week. As a pastor, marking time in “Sundays” comes naturally. The build up to Sunday is fairly consistent. Around Tuesday, I remind myself that I need to look at the lectionary for this next Sunday. This means actually reading the scripture for the week and then starting the process of looking at other people’s commentaries and reflections. Then, sometime on Thursday, I start looking at the bulletin. And, since I have the “hook up” from some seasoned pastor types, there is always help if I need it. By Friday night, I force myself to write something. I DO have a whole day to get the service ready, but we all know, whether we are stateside or in Afghanistan, life has a way of interrupting best laid plans.
Last Sunday I started my own worship service, the early service. Even my own mother would think twice before attending early church, especially if it is one’s day off. While there are quite a few Protestant services on our camp, none of them have, even loose ties, to traditional liturgy. Even though I knew that my audience would be small, possibly even non-existent, I wanted to offer weekly communion and prayers for worshipers who were seeking something a little different. Our first service was a little dicey. We didn’t have the right music, and I ended up having to lead the small group in an “A capella” hymn sing. When church finally ended, my only consolation was that I had to drink the rest of the communion wine we had prepared for about twenty people. It was throw it away or drink it up. I never waste… anything.
This Sunday went off without a hitch. We more than doubled our attendees and the music worked perfectly. In a way though, I have had some anxiety in the hours that followed our service. Why did I have to preach on Judgment Day the first Sunday that we actually had a critical mass? It serves me right for following the lectionary so faithfully. But preaching the Gospel is not always easy, for the preacher or the listener. After the service, one of the soldiers who looked a little suspicious as I preached God’s love, asked me if the upcoming Bible Study, based on Rob Bell’s book Love Wins about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived, was going to take a particular position. I told him that the book definitely takes a position, but I was hoping to create an open forum for honest discussion about a subject that causes a lot of debate. I also told him I hoped he would join us.
Perhaps the best part of the day was when Fisch reminded me of something that I should have remembered, but that got lost in my own self-consciousness. “Ma’am,” he said. “I may not always agree with you, but don’t ever apologize for speaking the truth.” Amen.