The hour-long drive home passed in silence. There was nothing to say. What do you say? Tonight, I don’t know.
The reason is, there’s no complaining to do. In God’s providence, our lives unfold thus.
Still, it feels like not all is right. Things are not as they should be.
I want to be one of those people who lives in Christian community so strong, so rich, so permanent that my children are baptized and married by the same man. I wish the same congregation that celebrated at my wedding would hold vigil at my funeral and in a perfect world the graveyard my grandchildren would visit would hold the same names as today’s church directory. Awaiting the resurrection together then as now.
This is the way of most of the world for most of the centuries gone by and now we are fragmented by the largeness of modernity. So here we are, setting off for the next place, 700 miles away, because it’s the thing to do. God made that clear.
We still have three weeks left to fellowship with the community we’ve been welded to by shared worship but tonight we said goodbye to our pastor and his wife and son – without a doubt the best friends we’ve ever had as a couple. As God would have it, they won’t be here to see us off.
But there’s nothing to say about this goodbye, because it’s the way it should be. There is no bitterness. There is sadness. But there is joy for both of us as we each do what’s next in the pursuit of faithfulness. They in Minnesota. We in Indiana. There’s no complaining because we are content and secure in God’s obvious leading. It is a gift to feel this. So we are silent, not a word to say for an hour. Just tears.
We are blessed that the roots of our identity began to grow in this place. But it feels like we are woven fabric. Now it begins to tear and though we eagerly follow the adventure ahead we feel broken and incomplete. As I sat at the piano this morning I knew every single face I saw. Their names. Their personalities. I love them.
If I had to put a name to it, it’s liturgy that’s shaped us at this place and especially through these two pilgrims we’ve already begun to miss.
“Stand to your feet.” “In the name of God, welcome into His house.” “We are glad to be here.” “Now, Christians, from your heart.” “By the authority I have as a minister of Christ, I tell you your sins are forgiven.” “Lift up your hearts.” “It is proper and right to give thanks to you at all times and at all places, but most of all here at your table.” “Close our worship on our feet, as is fitting.” “Grace be with you.”
These are a few of the words that are etched into my identity and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it from here to heaven without them. Present or not in such vivid beauty, I’ll have to practice finding them implied wherever we worship, no matter where. But it won’t be the same and I’ll miss the feast for the soul.
I’ll miss the feast for the body, too, and we’ve learned that from them. The wine and the cheese and the coffee and the rich heaping table and the hilarity and the singing because that’s the way it should be on the Sabbath among the Lord’s people. We must go teach this now.
There’s more to liturgy, we’ve learned, than what we do at 9:30 on Sunday mornings, now standing, now sitting, now silent, now singing.
Life, lived well, is liturgical. Rhythmic. Sabbatarian. Every day is Sabbatarian. Sabbatarian doesn’t mean don’t buy groceries on Sunday. It means buy them on Saturday because Sunday is for joy.
Each week we begin in fresh faith. We plan and prepare and gather our resources and set out. We work and get tired and keep working. We work till we are empty and needy. Friday we plan Saturday so that Saturday we can prepare Sunday and Monday, because on Sunday we can’t afford thoughts of Monday. The hour-long drive to church is probably the low point of our week’s rhythm because we are empty.
And then we are filled by worship and joy and fellowship and no matter how tired or how deeply asleep the boy on the lap we stand at the benediction because that is where we gather new grace. And when we drive home we feel alive again. So very alive.
This is the life we’ve learned and in our dreams we stay here forever.
Lord, God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Lutheran Book of Worship, Evening Vespers