Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Summary... enough already

I grew up on the shore which means that on Memorial Day there is a parade in various small towns at noon. However, on Sunday everyone is at the beach. The beach clubs officially open for the season on that weekend and folks are setting up their cabanas and lockers while their kids renew acquaintances (why the kids who only lived one school district over from us seemed so exotic and exciting I will NEVER know).

So when we came here the first two Memorial Day weekends I used as an opportunity to enjoy the long weekend with my Mom and sister away from this area of the country. I noticed that when I was away the attendance would not take a dip that Sunday, but I did not think too much about it until at Session someone brought up that they would prefer it if I would stay in town for that Sunday. Oh.
Truly I was glad that they told me instead of letting that fester.

Memorial Day is a big deal here. But, you get that now so let me give you some feedback on this past Memorial Day Sunday.

George W. Stroup, Professor of Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, wrote an essay entitled "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in the Pentecost 2005 edition of the Journal for Preachers. He writes about the gap often found between clergy and parishioners when it comes to the Sundays around national holidays. His text is Matthew 22:34-40 - The greatest commandment and the one like it.

His point is that we are of course called to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind but we are also called to love the blessings God has given us such as the freedom to worship that God and the men and women who helped secure that freedom. Really it comes down to balance.

So that is what I shared with them last Sunday morning although I opened with some comments about the generation gap. I didn't share all of the points from that post but it did get their attention. There was no denying that even my most avid supporters were on the edge of their seats praying to God that I wouldn't stick my foot in it.

All in all it went well. My last line was the line that God bless America is a request, not a given... and I got away with it!

I kept the plaque dedication, etc... in the service itself. And you know really I think most people get it. Most people are not worshipping our flag or the nation or the government no matter how red or blue they are. Now the two speakers did not necessarily get it, but most folks do and did. For them and for me it comes down to respecting the people who wanted this so badly.

This is getting long and I have more thoughts, but really I am tired of it all and my friends are still here. Plus I have to save something for next year's Memorial Day posts, right?

I did receive two affirmations on Sunday that I will never forget. One from a a retired army officer. He definitely leans WAY left and frustrates the heck out of his fellow military folk who are camped on the right. He is in his upper 70's and flashed me the thumbs up as he patted me on his way out the door to be with his wife in the nursing home.

The next was an email I received that night from another retired miltary man, this one a bit farther to the right although he agrees that we need to keep those durn politics out of the church. He is one that I know the good ol' boys tried to swing over to their side. He joined only a couple of years ago.

Pastor Will Smama,

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your sermon today. It was truly outstanding!

- Veteran Parishioner

I printed out that one and put it in my 'Pat on the Back' file.

Thanks for all your prayers, thoughts and comments. Maybe I should start taking the weekend AFTER Memorial Day off.


mz said...

Good job. Cliche #1!! Love you.

cheesehead said...

Sounds like you did exactly the right thing with your sermon, and the people did get it. Good for you!

I struggle with this, too. When I was doing my call search a few years back, every church I was a final candidate for had a big honkin' American flag in the sanctuary...until I got to St. Stoic. Coincidence? I don't know.

You deserve those pats on the back.

Quotidian Grace said...

Congratulations, WM. Not only does the congregation get it--you do, too.

peripateticpolarbear said...

you're a good egg will smama.

hipastorzwife2B said...

Sounds like it was a fitting service for you and your congregation.