Kristin asked about the service which, in the last post, I called “stunning.”
I tried to write about it in that post, but it’s hard to describe what made it stand out and not just recount the whole service. One of the RevDoc’s great strengths–at least for this literary person–is the way a worship service flows thematically. From the reflection in the bulletin to the call to worship to the songs to the sermon to the prayers, everything reflects the week’s lectionary passages and/or the theme she is using for the sermon.
She’s not a big fan of the Hallmark Holidays, but she went with the father’s day thing here. Fathers and their children greeted at the door. The lectors (lay readers) were a foster father/son duo. The scriptures were the epistle and gospel, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 and Mark 4:26-34, and the theme of the service was, more or less, like a father with a child, God is big; we are small.
The call to worship presented images of fathers and children and asked God to be like those fathers to us (“God, as I have seen a father lift a hurting child/Lift me/Into the embrace of your healing…”). The songs were God is Powerful hymns (“A Mighty Fortress”– and it wasn’t even Reformation Sunday). The children’s sermon used the visual illustration of a small child (that would be my small child) trying to reach up from the floor and lift a stuffed lamb down from the pulpit and then his father (that would be my guy) lift him onto his shoulders and let him easily reach the lamb. The RevDoc then showed a picture of Christ with a lamb on his shoulders and talked about God helping us when we are too small like Computerguy helped Squeak, like we are the lamb on Jesus’ shoulder. (So yes, CG got to stand in for God and he was pretty pleased with that. He said, “I wanted to say when she asked, ‘since you’ve noted my god-like qualities, of course I’ll help you,’ but I resisted.”)
In the sermon, the RevDoc talked about scripture using many metaphors for God (mother hen, vine dresser, friend, etc.) and father being one metaphor, and Jesus’ most often used one. She then used stories of fathers and father figures helping their children be more than they could be on their own. And then the mustard seed and how the kingdom starts small, and we are small as individuals and as a congregation living in one of the two poorest large cities in the US, and how God is big. Like the best of fathers enable us to do more than we possibly could, God does that, even better than the best of fathers. (Here’s a link to the sermon.)
In the pastoral prayer, the RevDoc prayed an inclusive litany-style prayer for all sorts of fathers/non-fathers/children/etc. (“Jesus called you father, and we pray for fathers who are present, fathers who are absent, fathers who…”) And then we sang “Loving Spirit,” a new one to me, but I liked it, had the moment for reflection and benediction, and that was it.
It wasn’t contemporary or alternative or anything like that. It was just exquisite. It was about God and us and our relationship to a God who is big and who is at work and who we can trust to carry us on broad shoulders like my spouse carried our boy. There was an acknowledgement of the importance of fathers and father figures, but also an acknowledgement that God is the only father who will never let us down. It was good stuff.