Getting to Know You*

When I pastored congregations, I dispensed promptly with the announcements referring worshipers to their bulletins and only speaking of essentials and doing so at the beginning of the worship service just after the prelude so we could get on with what worship was all about.

When I retired and sat in pews opposite the pulpit I had to endure, with irritation growing, the seeming infinite announcements offered up by worshipers in those pews.

I wanted to shout out or signal with a hand slicing across my throat to the pastor or lay worship assistant to speed it up, cut it off, get on with it…and then I thought about that “getting on.”

Getting on with what? Proper liturgy, from liturgia meaning work of the people. Worship was the proper liturgia of the people. Worship — worthy of praise, us to God. It had to have form and substance. We had to give of our best to the Master, to use antiquated language, but how do you sing with a straight face “give of your best to the mistress”? And giving the best translated into the congregation sitting quietly while the minister and choir did all the work, efficiently, making sure the service never exceeded sixty-five minutes.

What about the reverse? God to us. Didn’t getting a message from God have something to do with preaching and didn’t praying have something to do with proper stuff out of a worship book read rather rapidly by the minister, and the final act of God to us, Holy Communion dispensed properly — the correct words, the correct hand signals, the correct bows and genuflections: “The body of Christ broken for you. Here’s a wafer. The blood of Christ shed for you. Here’s a thimble”?

Maybe those seemingly endless announcements and prayer requests all mixed together really form liturgia, the work of worship, the things we say to God and each other, the joys and sorrows and announcements about next Saturday’s garage sale in the fellowship hall. Perhaps then as we made it up from those pews to the table for communion, we had a bit better understanding of who we were standing with around that table and with whom we were sharing Jesus’ dinner.

Maybe these are offered during the only time during the week some people get to say something out loud and be listened to and accepted, that is, with this one exception — except for the time the little, old person who always droned on and on about this ailment and that, had to tell us about the intense pain of hemorrhoids. That was TMI and a legitimate pain in the…you know where.  The person could have offered up a silent prayer on that one.

*idea from an article “Church is What We Create With Each Other” by Erin O. White published in the On Being newsletter, August 18, 2018

Mud in Hitler’s Eye

The former govern-
     ment official stated, 
“He’s drunk on power.”
     The teetotaler is 
drunk, drunk on power. 
     Hitler was a teetotaler 
drunk on power. Church-
     ill loved his scotch 
and soda. I’ll drink 
     to that. "Here's mud 
in your eye, my, oh, 
     my," Winston could 
have said sarcast-
     ically to Adolph 
as he won the WWII 
     horse race on a 
muddy track.
     This teetotaler just 
muddies the water.


The Squealing

“He’s got the steering wheel in
his hands and he’s veering wild-
ly,” the former government off-
icial said. Then he asked the
question in a voice pleading
otherwise, “Do we wait until
something really bad happens?”
Can you hear the squealing
of the impending crash?

Outrage Fatigue

“Outrage fatigue”
was the tweet.
It was sweet.
Hit the nail
on the head.
Protesters hail
what was said.
Ironically, gave
energy instead
of enervating
further those
from hating
just wanting
the outrageous
to stop
further castigating
of those protesting —
(what a waste!)
packing his bags
and leaving —

Relishing a Pickled Mushroom*

The moral edifice embodied in
remembrance is something oral

historians count on but isn’t
there the embellishment factor

to factor into the embodied
edifice? You keep me in the

dark so much, you should start
a mushroom farm, so please don’t

keep me in suspenders any longer.
How does the story end? And don’t

embellish with relish your re-mem-                                                                                   brance of the mushroom who

walked into a bar and the bartender
told the mushroom that the bar

doesn’t serve mushrooms and the                                                                                     pickled mushroom said (you’re

going to relish this), “Why not?                                                                                                   I’m a fungi.”

*Lines and paraphrases and additions all mashed up from the novel The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig,

Across the Creek

We stood across the creek from each other
Chatting about this, that and the other.
He cracked some jokes, his imprimatur.
Suddenly he bolted acting quite immature.
Why? A friend stopped by for a chat.
The joker saw him; the friend filled me in on the spat.
We are old enough to know better than that
— fighting like fifth graders or dogs and cats.
But not really. Our egos get bruised
And we find a fight hard to refuse.
We’ll give each other the silent treatment
Expecting the other to apologize any moment,
But moments turn to days, months and years.
What is it exactly that we have to fear
In breaking the silence and admitting accounts in arrears?
What’s that about pride and falling?
Shouldn’t we follow our vocare, our calling,
To ask for forgiveness and be forgiving,
To swallow hard and start reconciled living?
In the moment its easy for me to say.
Out of this fight I’m just trying to stay.

As the Sun Came Up

As the sun came up, he listened to the
elongated notes and chords holding him

in suspended animation then the staccato
jarred him from his gaze at the water

in the creek rippling along, along, along.
He looked at the six-year-old (going on

eight months) female, Chocolate Lab,
adopted five months ago. He put his hand

on her glistening, wavy brown coat.
It was warm from the sun. “I think we’re

going to make it, Babe. I think we are
going to make it.” She licked his hand.

He wondered if that was affection or
just the whiff of something left over

from breakfast.

Greek Tragedies and Comedies in Mundanity

The teenage daughter said spitefully,
“We sure look good to the world,”
meaning the public face, the persona,
the mask. What’s behind the door?

It’s hard to match the masks,
private and public — like living out
lives in a Greek tragedy
or comedy — here/there in mundanity.

The man read a book about a great runner
who ran away from home everyday,
away from the sadist father who
was the paragon of virtue in public.

He tries to bring the private and the
public together and then he’ll
lapse and smack
the dog behind the door.

Fortunately, the dog is forgiving
giving the man the grace
to integrate his face
an inch or two toward God.

On Stepping Aside, Letting Go and Letting God or Not

The man sat in the balcony watching
the revered reverend pass the torch
to his equally progressive successor
who had come highly recommended

by a famous, book publishing, liberal
buddy of the progressive pastor. The
young successor, hand-picked by the
pastor and his famous buddy, sat with

his handsome family. The beloved
pastor asked the young man to stand.
The much beloved pastor then said,
“Behold your people. People behold

your new shepherd,” almost like Jesus
on the cross telling the beloved
disciple and Jesus’ mother to behold
each other. For the next two years the

now beloved former pastor sat in
the front row as “the kid” (as the
near sainted former beloved pastor
called him) preached. In three

years, the revered reverend had
started his own congregation in
the clubhouse of a nearby country
club, “the kid” had headed back

home and a right-wing, evangel-
ical mega-church had purchased
the building and began advertising
their ten a.m. “rock n’ praise”

service. Some make things happen.
Some watch things happen. Some
ask, “What happened?” At least
the evangelicals are happy.

You Don’t Seem Very Religious

“How can you be so complacent about our faith?”
the girl asked him in their sophomore year of

high school. Was he blasé or simply comfortable?
She struck him as needy, having to get all consumed

by something in order to have it be significant.
She didn’t seem authentic but she was judgmental.

In their senior year he saw her in the hall and
said, “Haven’t seen you at Christian fellowship

lately.” “Oh, that? When I was a child, etc.,
etc., etc. but when I became an adult I put away

childish things.” She had become a rabid thespian
and hung with the artsy crowd. “You’ve got kind

of a nice face. Why don’t you try out for the next
play?” He didn’t think so. First, he wasn’t passionate

enough about religion. Then he wasn’t artsy/fartsy
enough for the theat-“re” instead of “er.” Was he

blasé or simply comfortable? He still felt the
judgment. It would follow him into the pulpit.

His wife once said, “You don’t seem very religious.
Maybe you should have been a social worker.”