Because life is a series of edits

Working the Woe

In Thought on February 20, 2006 at 11:47 am

Yesterday, as part of his internship for the seminary, Learner led the first part of his church’s morning worship service, filling in for his friend/internship overseer/associate pastor, who is on a three-week sabbatical to work on his doctorate dissertation.

While Learner has always been comfortable in front of people (and has had plenty of experience being so over the years), this time around was a little different as he was in a suit.

Learner never wears a suit.

To complicate matters, he and Mrs. Learner had quite an argument the evening before that, contrary to good biblical teaching, they let the sun go down (as well as rise) on their anger. Thus, when they picked me up on Sunday morning to ride to church, well, the mood in the van was…tense.

Learner taught Sunday School – his last in a six-week series on multiple generations in church – and then, as he had agreed to the previous week, led the Call to Worship, the first hymn, and prayed an Invocation at the beginning of the service. Mrs. Learner skipped Sunday School altogether (she usually goes to his class when she’s not teaching five-year-olds once a month), and she listened to the service from a private room in the back of the sanctuary, in tears.

Earlier in the week, the two of them realized that this Sunday might be a first glimpse of sorts of what life might be like as a pastor and as a pastor’s wife. Suffice it to say, it was not the most glorious of revelations.

Here is the prayer Learner wrote on Sunday morning (in the middle of the fight) for the Invocation, read immediately after the opening hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

“O, God, our Mighty Fortress, our bulwark never failing, we come to you now – each of us wounded from battle, weary from burden, worse for the wear. Thank you for being a refuge for us; for being a respite for us; for being rest for us. Allow us the grace this morning to enter into the Mighty Fortress that is your presence, trusting not in our ability to do so, but trusting only in your invitation to do so.

O, God, if indeed you are our Mighty Fortress, then we have no choice but to seek your protection from our enemy – from your enemy – the evil one, for ‘still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.’ Truly, God, ‘his craft and power are great,’ but they are not greater than yours. Shield us from his onslaughts and his desires; heal us from the sting of his wounds; and forgive us, God, of our own treasonous tendencies to leave the love of your lordship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

He can be a poetic one, that Learner.

Now if he just weren’t so much of an ass the rest of the time…

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