December 03, 2006

First Sunday of Advent

I slept in this morning. It was nearly seven when I crawled out of bed. I jumped up and staggered down the hallway, trying to get my eyes to focus. I made my way to my office, and began my last minute preparations for worship.

At church, it was the day of our annual Hanging of the Greens. I had spent a good part of the day on Thursday getting things ready: assembling the artificial tree, digging through the closets for Christmas decorations, trying to figure out what goes where, and when during the service it gets placed. The Hanging of the Greens is a part of our Sunday morning worship; the children place the decorations, which corresond to various readings and hymns that the congregation sings. (Q: How do you know the church Christmas tree was decorated by the children? A: You know when the ornaments start randomly falling off during worship.) The only problem was that Michelle -- the person who's been so good at organizing such things in years past -- has moved away and is no longer able to be a part of our community.

I was also anxious because, once again, I was planning something different for the second half of worship. I'm sure that some people in the congregation think I like shaking things up on a regular basis, but really, I like routine. However, I also realize that following routine isn't always what's best for us. So I shake things up, but what the congregation doesn't know is that when I do so, I'm even more nervous about it than they are.

What I did today was replace the sermon time with some "psalm-writing." Psalm 25 (the assigned psalm for the first Sunday in Advent) is an acrostic, which means that every verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. After a brief word of explanation, I handed out pencils to the congregation and instructed them to write their own acrostic "psalm."

One of the things seminary taught me well was the importance of good preaching. Preaching, we were told, was the most important thing a pastor did. The pastor's job was to preach. However, I'm starting to learn that preaching isn't the pastor's job. The pastor's job is to lead the people closer to God, and yes, preaching is the main tool for that job, but sometimes a different tool is called for. I think one thing established churches like mine can learn from newer emergent & missional churches is the difference between means and ends. Preching is a means, not an end. The order of worship we're so used to is a means, not an end. Even our building is a means, not an end. The end is faithfully worshiping and witnessing.

Well, we had our Hanging of the Greens, and thanks to the hard work of my wife in organizing it, it succeeded. We wrote our acrostic psalms, and one of the members even read the poem she had written as our benediction. Worship on this first Sunday of Advent is over. The pastor is emotionally drained. I think I'm going to go running.


~m2~ said...

i know i am late in commenting as it is officially "Christmas Eve's eve," but i wanted to say what a cool idea that was, handing out pencils and having your congregation participate in the writing of a psalm. i am a tactile person and a (albeit long-winded) writer and it would have driven the point home very well with the likes of me.


i came to say hello via today at the mission; i am penni, i will return if it is okay with you.


Danny said...

Return as often as you like! Thanks for visiting.