June 25th, 2014 by Carl Buffington
Saying “Hello” and “Good Bye”
A psychologist once said those are the two hardest words to say in any language.
Last Sunday we prayed for and said good-bye to Becky Valentine. After the service she told me how much she loved coming to church. Thinking this might be a ploy to make me feel good about a good-bye, she is counselor you know, I asked what she liked most about being here. Suspecting she would say something like, being with friends, the worship… she caught me flat footed when she said, “my favorite part of the service is the thing you did twice today. Remember, you said you did the wrong one, and so you went on and did another one.”
That was a first for me. She liked, actually listened to, perhaps was touched by, the Proper Preface. It’s the bit that is stuck between, “It is right, and good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give thanks…” and concludes with, “Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…” and then on to the Sanctus, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might...”
With Pentecost on the horizon, I thought of places in our liturgy where we might meet and say hello to the Holy Spirit. The Preface was not a place I would immediately look. Just then, Jimmie Winderweedle came up to me and said, “Carl, I had the most wonderful experience in worship today.” I was pretty sure the odds were not in favor of another Proper Preface person. She said, “You know I am music disabled, so this is not my usual experience, but as we continued to sing ‘He’s alive’ in one of the songs, it was just simply unbelievable! Like the whole congregation was elevated, swept up, and joined with all the saints in heaven, worshipping and praising. It wasn’t a happy feeling sort of moment but one of intense joy and peace. I really can’t describe it but we were all there together.”
I thought, “Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…” perhaps we really do!
What hit me as I headed home and said good-bye to a wonderful morning was that our liturgy offers us a lot of ways to say hello to the Holy Spirit.
One other way is in the Word section; scriptures and sermon. As I write this, I have just finished listening to Fr. Christopher’s sermon again. It’s marvelous! If you missed it, don’t – listen to it on the web site. The other day he commented to me that he had shared with a friend whose suggestion had been that we don’t put that much emphasis on the sermon in our liturgy, he said, “We actually have four sermons, one by someone looking forward to Messiah, one written by someone who walked with our Lord, one written by someone living in a very young community of faith, and then one by one who wants to share all of the above.”
I think of all the many places open for us to commune with the Holy Spirit in our Sunday morning service. For example, in the Eucharist we ask the Holy Spirit to bless and sanctify not just the bread and wine, but those of us about to receive it. And indeed, in truth, the Holy Spirit can touch us; transform us in Jesus’ body and blood. So many openings for him to say hello and for us to respond. Perhaps, at times, it is simply indescribable.
You know some really good news of the Good News is that the message of Pentecost is that we don’t have to say good-bye to Jesus, now or ever. It is critical to life however, that we say hello to the Holy Spirit and our Anglican liturgy opens wide that door.
In His Name,
PS I’m pretty sure I didn’t get Jimmie’s words as well as she shared them, so feel free to ask her.