Love and Gratitude

Love and Gratitude

The hummingbirds are back. I noticed one hovering reproachfully around the place where the feeder is supposed to be late last week, when the dismal cold rains finally let up. I ran to make nectar and put out the feeder, and since then our tiny visitor has been showing up at regular intervals all day long. We never have lots of hummingbirds, maybe because we don’t actually live in the woods. But the busy few we have are reliable harbingers of summer.

There was a lot of activity at church after the worship service yesterday, too. Setting up tables in the CLC. Hanging red paraments. Moving furniture in the sanctuary – getting out the kneeling bench, moving the communion table, working around the wires that snake from the computer and the projector to the pulpit in these days of hybrid church. Putting out the communion element condiment sets that are the rule in these days of hygienic precautions.

Ordination is Saturday. Preparations are actively underway. People are excited.

By far the hardest thing about ordination always seemed to me that I would have to resign my membership in the congregation. Ministers of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church are “members of Presbytery,” not of the congregations they serve, or the ones they participate in if they are working in “validated ministries” other than pastoring a particular congregation. Which we “shall” do, I keep reminding people – Presbyspeak for “must.” Participate in a congregation, that is.

Normally, seminarians get prepared, and get called, and get ordained, and off they go. I was delighted to go to seminary. After that, I was forever digging in my heels and saying “I want to stay here.” Home.

Now that I’ve gotten the offer I couldn’t refuse, the one that includes getting to “stay here” in a significant sense, I see that I was wrong.

There are plenty harder things.

People keep asking me “aren’t you excited?” and I keep thinking “excitement” doesn’t fit. Terrified comes a little closer. Or overwhelmed. Or perplexed, like “how did this even happen, and what on earth is this going to mean, really?” Which is, of course, exactly the task of the next however long to find out, the “what is this going to mean?”

But the “how did this even happen” part, although also mysterious, is a little clearer. It happened here, because of this place and because of these people, and because of living in this community, and trying to live up to that. The demands of that, and the promise of that. This is a way of life that pulls us past ourselves. It certainly has pulled me past myself – not to say I don’t still have a long way to go to be any of the ways I would really like to be.

One of my very best friends here only became that because one day I had taken my daughter to McDonald’s – she was about five, as I recall – and as we were looking for a table she said “Look, there’s that girl from our church.” She was eating alone. And me, being me, and not what I would call “naturally sociable,” would under any other circumstances have waved and sat somewhere else. But my baby daughter was with me, and I thought I needed to be hospitable and friendly, because that is supposed to be who we are. So we went over and said, “Hey, want some company?” And she said “Sure!” And that was that: that profound friendship, yet another vital thing I owe to the curriculum of the Corydon Presbyterian Church.

The Corydon Presbyterian Church was like that for me, actually. There I was, and they said, “here, eat with us.” Literally, as a matter of fact, because the first Sunday I visited they were having a potluck under the trees on the site of what was about to be a new building. Someone had made tabouleh, as I recall. A couple of other people were from Chicago, too – or Elgin, close enough.

So I stayed. I ate with them. I worked with them. I worshipped with them. And then, little by little, imperceptibly, over time, while we were busy sharing life together, which is exactly how it happens, I was one of them. I loved them. So that now, who I am is some proportion them. That’s what it means to be a human being, in a community, and in a relationship with other human beings: to belong to other people in this way, not only to yourself. Something else I learned largely, if not exclusively, from the curriculum of the Corydon Presbyterian Church.

How this happened was that I fell into church. And what happens at church is love. And gratitude. And Love and gratitude will take you places that you hadn’t planned. Places, honestly, you didn’t even know were there. Whole new worlds, whole new lives. Even without leaving home.

red line embellished

Images: “Redbud Ohio 2,” Greg Hume, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; “The Good Shepherd (Atlas Mountains, Morocco),” Henry Ossawa Tanner, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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