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.
6 thoughts on “A Perfect Moment”
this one about killed me
Thank you, Beth. The whole service was perfect for me. Watching Johnathan be baptized into the community of faith at Westminster wearing his Great Grandfather’s 98 year old baptismal gown was powerful. Your sermon spoke to me and touched me. The Rutter, “For the Beauty of the Earth,” has special meaning for our family and “Come Thou Font” is a favorite of Ted and me. The service was filled with joy, affirmation, hope and peace. Doesn’t get much better than that. Thank you
You paint such a beautiful picture with your words…thank you for sharing your moment of worship…I feel blessed!
Thanks Beth. The service was meaningful for me, too: the baptism, the thunder, the scripture reading, Gregg’s search for his hat in the children’s message, and your sermon. The addition of the verse from “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” added a special touch for me. I have good memories of singing that in an Episcopal choir a dozen or so years ago.
No more a stranger, or a guest, but like a child at home.
Aren’t those sacred moments the most wonderful thing? I still have them, every now and then!
Yes, it was special… I heard the choir singing as I came to worship and it was a wonderful preparation for the rest of the service and the day. Their singing still echoes in my mind and a copy of your sermon will soon be in the hands of my youngest son who turned 55 on Friday the 13th! He’s active in another congregation but likes to read other sermons as well. He sometimes visits for evening services and advocates for the Taize service by sitting next to the prayer team in the front row right by me. He jut ads to his spiritual experiences much like the music and baptisms we all have been a part of.