Sunday, March 01, 2009
This is the day the Lord has made
I begin each day with this verse from Psalm 118:24. Rain or shine, overcast or bright, warm or cold, snow or sleet, it's the first thing I say to myself before my feet hit the floor. I can't remember it not being my first spoken thought.
It's also the first thing I say every Sunday in church, after the processional hymn and before the opening sentences, in between saying the things that are important to the service: introducing a guest preacher, a change in service music settings, whatever.
I say it during Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas, The Season of Creation and the long, green Season after Pentecost.
I was especially glad to say it this morning at both the 8 and 10 o'clock service, when my dear friend, the Rev'd Dr. Paul Smith, came to preach.
Dr. Paul is the retired pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights. He and his wife, Fran (a really terrific woman - smart, articulate, sassy), recently moved to a nearby town and have become very, very dear to me.
He was one of a handful of students taken under the wing of Howard Thurman as his protegee. He is a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, an author, an educator, and someone who is deeply, personally, committed to The Beloved Community in particular and Interfaith Dialogue in general.
Every congregation he has ever served and led has become a model of diversity and inclusion. Indeed, he considers himself a 'diversity role model'. That's as accurate a description of Paul Smith as any one I've every heard.
He talked about Lent as a time of discernment in terms of getting ready to set out in a small boat in the midst of a Big Water. He asked us if we were safe in the harbor or had we ventured out to the sand bar? Were we stuck in the sand, or were we already in the deep water and longing to come back in to shore?
I wish I had a manuscript of his sermon, but it was all extemporaneous. We don't yet have reliable audio equipment, so we weren't able to tape it. Our loss, but I have a sense that there were those in the congregation who will not soon forget his words.
He really pushed us to think about this image of being in a Very Small Boat about to launch on a Very Big Water - and with good result. Several people came up to him and to me - eyes brimming with emotion and, in several cases, tears - to say how that image had really hit a place deep in their soul.
Some seemed shaken and disturbed. Others looked like they were feeling something stirring in their souls.
It was snowing softly this morning. It has stopped now. We are expecting a Very Big Storm this evening and into tomorrow.
No matter. It's all good: The early morning flurry of snow. The bright sun immediately after. The mild, overcast afternoon. The anticipated storm after all of the old stuff had finally disappeared.
It's all good: The smiles. The tears. The anxious chatter. The being shaken and disturbed. The something stirring in the soul.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.