Last night was the first night of 2012 that we went to First Lutheran to take dinner to the hungry and homeless. I expected it to be a record setting crowd, since it was so cold outside, cold by South Florida standards.
Of course, when it's cold, the city opens a shelter, so maybe that's why we didn't see as many people as I expected. On the Wednesday before Christmas, a balmy 85 degrees, we served 139 people. Last night, with the low in the 50's, we served under 70 people.
The pastor wasn't on site by the time it was time to say grace, so I said, "Luckily, we belong to a religious tradition that doesn't believe we need a pastor to pray to our God." No big deal--I've done it before, and I'm comfortable praying in front of a group.
A man raised his hand and asked to be the one to pray. I was a bit uneasy--was he enthusiastic because of the Holy Spirit or because of earthly spirits? I said, "Let's pray together. You go first, and I'll finish."
As he came forward, I noticed uneasy looks being exchanged across tables. I said, "You're not going to be profane, are you?"
Oh me of little faith! He took my hand and offered a beautiful prayer. He said, "Now you."
I prayed, "I don't have much more to add to that, except to ask that you be with those who can't be with us tonight and to be with us as we leave each other at the end of our time together tonight."
First Lutheran offers an ecumenical worship service after the meal. The pastor still hadn't arrived by the end of the meal, and the First Lutheran woman in charge asked if I would do the service. I hadn't counted on that, but I was game; I decided to go with an Epiphany theme, since I'd recently been writing about Epiphany (here at the Living Lutheran website, and here at my weekly Gospel meditation). I consulted with the pianist/choir director, found a Bible passage, and waited for time to begin.
We sang "We Three Kings." I read Matthew 2: 1-21. I talked about the wise men knowing what they were seeing because they had been observing the skies for many years. I talked about the different responses to God: the wise men get up and get moving, while Herod reacts in devastatingly destructive ways. I talked about God choosing to live among the poor, the refugees, the immigrants.
Several of the homeless men wanted to talk, and I let them. I'm enough of a teacher that I'm comfortable with that approach, although it unnerved at least one of the First Lutheran members.
Then I took prayer requests and fashioned a prayer. We finished by singing "Joy to the World."
Last night was one of those Holy Spirit nudges. I always love serving a meal. As I have said to more than one friend, who can object to feeding the hungry? But I really loved putting together a service and doing the preaching.
I know I might not love it as much if I had to do it week in, week out. I know that to be an ordained Lutheran, I'd have to take on a lot of student debt as I went to school for years. I feel the Holy Spirit nudging me, but I'm unclear of the final destination.
Am I unclear or do I not want to see? I am guilty of wanting the Holy Spirit to speak in grand gestures, like a full scholarship to a seminary with living expenses covered too, not in gentle whispers. I worry that if I want a grand gesture, the Holy Spirit will get my attention by way of the grand gesture of unemployment or something horribly negative. My earthly spirit clearly doesn't fully trust the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps that's why the Holy Spirit tends to work in nudges and whispers. Most of us are skittish animals, after all, easily spooked.
Today I return to my regular life, a work life full of Holy Spirit nudges, where no one asks to pray with me, where few worship, where whining often wins out over gratitude.
I want to be like my grandmother, whom so many have told me cultivated a garden of calm and acceptance. I want to be that woman, no matter where I'm working. Come, Lord Jesus, and transform my worry into joy.
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