“O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal if for Thy courts above.”
The Sunday after Easter is such a relief. I do love all the pageantry and crowds and flowers of Easter, but somehow the Sunday after Easter feels more real and more to the point. There are no processions to organize, no flowers to maneuver around, fewer handshakes and smiles after the service, and no eggs to clean up. It’s normal worship again – or as normal as worship ever gets – and the folks who are there are there because it’s their church and they come rain or shine, flowery holiday or regular holy day.
Which is not to say that things cannot be wonderful and gut-wrenching and good.
It was the offertory that got me. Our choir (who did not take off the Sunday after Easter because they love singing in worship) sang a beautiful arrangement of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Now I love that hymn. I love the poetry of the words and I am a complete sucker for any tune out of the Southern Harmony tradition. So the choir starts in, the women first, and a little organ interlude, the men coming in on a new verse in a new key, a cappella. And then it gets going with the culmination of that line “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be” and it hit me:
That is why I do all of this.
That was my first sense of call, my push toward ordination, the thing that motivates me week after week and year after year to be a part of the gorgeous flawed thing called church and to be a member of this hilarious and weird and flawed thing called the clergy. It’s because I am indebted to the grace of God every single moment of my life, and in gratitude and penance and hope I do this Christianity thing and I do this ministry thing because grace has overpowered my will, my guilt, my ego, my sense of worthlessness, my sense of awesomeness, and all the misery the world can throw at me. That is why I do all of this.
We have an ongoing conversation, the congregation and I, about the Apostles’ Creed. Some aren’t happy we ever say it, some wish we said it more, and I insist on saying it when we have baptisms. As I said, it’s an ongoing conversations and nobody’s really budging. But that’s okay. Last year our choir sang Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass as the sermon one week, and the Credo in that is pretty much spectacular. One of our folks, one of the ones who wishes we would never say the Apostles’ Creed again, did admit that if we could sing that Credo instead of saying the words, she’d be good. But we don’t – not yet, anyway.
But what if our creed were those words Robert Roberston wrote in 1758? What if our creed were the admittance of our utter reliance on the grace of God, and the hope that God would fetter us, and that all of this life is just part of sealing our hearts for something more? What if those words were our confession of sin, and our profession of faith, and our proclamation of the good word, and our marching cry every week? Would that my heart were tuned to sing that grace.