Fourth Sunday in Lent

The weather was fine today. Too fine; too warm. A month ago this Wednesday, I decided to give up driving to church on Sunday. I will finally succeed at this starting next week: the final NOOMA video ("Rich") was shown, and I no longer have to be there before 10:15. For the last two Sundays of the season, I'll be able to walk it with no problems. I was, in fact, tempted to walk it today; and I have mixed feelings about my decision not to.

The NOOMA film was predictable; the discussions about "God Bless America" and money, which led to... predictable results. (One of the eternally awkward parts of reading as much critical theory as I have: you can sit in a room full of committed progressives and still kvetch about how far to the left you are of the parish in general. It's not really a fair thing to complain about, but it's still a thing.) I was able to raise my voice this time, to remark on a thought about how Rob Bell juxtaposed "grace" and "deserving" at one point (and the greater three-part relationship between grace, dessert and mitzvot, although "grace" only came up once); asked to elaborate on that, I said I'd need a week or so.

(These last few days have had a lot of thoughts about grace. Not totally sure why.)

And so, an hour and a bit later, the 10:30 service started. It was amazing.

Have I mentioned that this is the first church I've ever been at to sing or say Trisagions? Because it does. Wonderfully. (I love singing. Richard Beck was right when he wondered what makes Christians sing so much.) And the rest of the hymnody worked in the context of the lectionary. Psalm 32, a Trisagion, a very new one, a very old one... a whiplash of loving calls to repentance, thanksgiving for forgiveness, cries for mercy, our relationship with Immanuel, God-with-us. It made me wish there was a tip jar.
Great God, in Christ, you call our name
and then receive us as your own
not by some merit, right or claim,
but by your gracious love alone...
(I've never heard that hymn before. It was beautiful; thinking about it now, it neatly expressed what I was thinking about in the NOOMA film. To talk about "grace" is to admit that stuff isn't ours.)

And, in the middle and the end, the Gospel itself: the parable of the Prodigal Son. I'm sure I've heard it preached about before, but never quite like this, riffing on the readings of the story, touching on how we read (my postliberal theological ears perked on those notes. Anything that acknowledges the story over the data-mining of it is good in my book. Preach!) and ending with the fanon of Henri Nouwen. (Whose name, as it turns out, is pronounced "No-when." I think.)

And the Eucharist. I was shaken by it; moved. Sitting back down at the pew left me in turmoil, like I could've cried if I'd willed myself to. I wound up looking through the Prayer Book for something to say; really wishing that I had something memorized. I should, maybe.

The last two hymns were fairly close together. 699 and 696 of the Hymnal, I think. Never heard the Communion hymn before, but it was the right thing to sing at that moment; really wishing I could remember it now.

And then the Eighth Sacrament, but I couldn't handle coffee hour today. As soon as I'd thanked the rector, I skipped the hell out and made for Bruegger's, to get myself the post-Sunday coffee and bagel.

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