This morning I was sitting in the sanctuary about half an hour before the service started. I came down from the office because the choir was rehearsing one of my favorite anthems – John Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth – and hearing just once in the service wasn’t going to cut if for me. I sat down in one of the transept pews, next to a dear, long-time member of the church who comes early, I think, so she can hear the choir rehearse.
As the choir was making their way through the song, one of my other pastor colleagues came in with a family whose infant son was to be baptized. The parents joined the church at Easter, when the dad was baptized, so there was something lovely about he and his wife bringing their baby to be baptized. The child was as bald as a peeled peach, with a sweet sweet round face. Just enough drool to make him adorable hung on his chin, and he smiled at me while I made silly faces at him.
My colleague was showing the parents the baptism choreography, and as he took the baby, so tenderly, and kissed his little forehead, the choir was singing, “For the joy of human love/Brother, sister, parent child,” I thought: that’s perfect. Everyone is up there practicing for the real thing, and the community isn’t gathered yet to witness it, but I was able to witness this moment when song and delight and love came together just right.
That would have been enough for me, that experience of the holy, twenty minutes before the service started. But the choir finished and need to trot downstairs to put their robes on, and the family need to do one last diaper change before the service. I had gone to the trouble to write a sermon, so I figured I might as well preach.
Those perfect moments are rare, especially when you’re in the business of church and you have a fair amount of responsibility for all the details that go into that one hour a week. Rarely do we conduct perfect worship, nor does God want perfection. I think God would much rather have something flawed and authentic than perfect and over-rehearsed. But those rare perfect moments are like little asterisks at the end of the sentence of a hard week, a reminder that the crap gets meliorated by a gracious, patient God who isn’t too high and mighty to show up for rehearsals.
It was good worship today – not perfect, but good – and as one parishioner noted, it thundered during the baptism, which was cool of the Holy Spirit. It’s so good in the fall to have everyone back together, the fullness of worship and hymns and prayers and rambunctious kids in the children’s moment and all that.
But truth be told, when the service started, I had already done my worship for the day.