I go to a Baptist church, and while we are more liturgical than the average Baptist church, we’re still pretty Baptist. We don’t, for example, say the Lord’s Prayer every week.
But sometimes we do, and we did on Sunday.
I like reciting prayers and creeds and Scripture passages, for the same reason I like to sing old songs.
I like to feel the weight of generations past hovering around us. I like to think about the great cloud of witnesses joining along, reminding us of our place in a long line of faithful folks struggling to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. I like to breath the it-is-well-with-my-souls, the Jesus-Christ-his-only-son-our-Lords, the give-us-this-day-our-daily-breads deeply, absorbing those patterns of speech and the poetry of my tradition so far down into my subconscious that, as happened with my grandmother who suffered from Alzheimers, those words will remain even if other pieces of my life fall away.
Early this year, a handful of young folks in our church decided to start a new Sunday school class. Despite my distaste for the adjective, I say “young” because that seems to be what we’re called by the rest of the church. Perhaps it is because of this that we’ve had a hard time coming up with a name for this group. I, for one, really didn’t want to be called “the new young adults class” because I knew, in our church, we’d be stuck with that name for at least the next twenty years.
I knew I was to have a meeting at church today from 3 until 5 pm and, as a result, was not whelmed at the prospect of changing into grubby clothes, slathering on sunscreen and bug spray, and heading out to our church’s community garden at 6. I knew we had fruit trees to plant, tomatoes to pick, pepper to water, and weeds to pull, but well, I just didn’t want to. So I decided I wouldn’t.
Then, in church this morning when we heard from Matthew 16 (vv. 21-28, actually), something stood out to me. This: Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ And wouldn’t you know it, our pastor mentioned in passing–it wasn’t even the main point–that it isn’t easy to “deny ourselves,” not if we take it seriously. Because denying ourselves doesn’t mean giving up things that are easy, giving things up that are abundant, giving out of the excess.
It’s about giving out of what is important, crucial, life-giving. Ah geez.
True story: When I come across a piece of information I don’t know, I shrug my shoulders and say, “Gee, that’d be nice to know.” And then I go about my business. I am married to someone, however, who can’t not look something up. Even if we don’t get home for many hours, the first thing he’ll do when we walk through the door is run to the computer. This afternoon, like many others, I found myself listening to J reading to me from an online etymology dictionary. Today, though, it was some pretty darn cool stuff, perfect for Texas Schmexas. So here’s a Sabbath-meditation-qua-guest-post-Sunday, courtesy of Jonathan, that delves into the meaning of hospitality.
I love words.
I love learning them, using them, reading them, hearing them, parsing them, punning on them, and generally playing with them. They’re such deceptively slippery little things. They seem as simple and uncomplicated as a pointing finger: this word points to this one thing, and nothing else. But it is as if the finger has a shady past and a doubtful reputation, so while it points at one simple thing, if you pay attention closely enough you find that it is always pointing at other things too, and sometimes almost exactly opposite things.
And that shady past is one of the things that makes them such good playmates, for they always mean rather more than they just mean. For example, in Sunday school today we were talking about hospitality, and I started wondering what root connected hospital, and hospice, and hospitality, etc. So I came home and looked it up in the online etymology dictionary and in the OED, and those words have a mightily convoluted past. The sacramental wonder, though, is the way in which their deep and twisting roots still suck up living water to succor the many leaves above. But perhaps it would be easiest to pick up this pot by the other handle.