I straighten my tie; readjust my over-ear connection to the microphone and step up to the altar podium. Facing my affluent congregation, dressed in their Sunday best, I smile.
“Good morning. Thank you for choosing Trinity as your place of worship. Visitors, please fill out a guest card. You’ll find them conveniently located in the hymnal rack in front of you. (Pause) I will not repeat all of this week’s announcements. See all pertinent information in your bulletins and scrolling upon the overhead screens. Please make a note of next Sunday morning’s time change to Daylight Saving Time. Set clocks forward Saturday night before turning in.”
I move back to my plush altar seat and pick up my leather bound hymnal. The 30-ish music director is the picture of success in his “JoS. A. BANK’s suit.” He saunters up to the platform to lead the downtown congregation in an opening hymn.
“Please stand and join me in the singing of verses one, two and four of “Amazing Grace,” page 177 in your pew hymnals and currently showing on the screens.”
I turn to the hymn and begin singing the familiar lyrics of John Newton.
Yes, grace is amazing. I wonder how many people really care.
At the closing of verse four’s notes, I view the downward motion of the song leader’s extended right hand. The congregation returns to padded pews. Standing, I invite designated ushers to come forward to take up the morning offering.
The head usher leads in a solemn brief prayer, followed by our organist’s rendition of “Count Your Blessings.” Stately men with hankies neatly tucked in suit coat pockets pass offering plates down pews. In step, they then carry them forward. As sounding brass, offering plates come to rest upon the Lord’s Supper table. I uplift my hands.
“Let us pray.
Father, I sense the presence of your Holy Spirit in the faces of your people, and in their voices united in praise. I ask for a special anointing upon me-your messenger, as I break the bread of life. Lord, forgive us where we have failed you and guide us in the remainder of this hour. In the name of your Son Jesus, we pray. Amen.”
Raising my head and opening my eyes, I watch as people re-direct their attention from prayer to worship. I flash a smile.
“We are in for a real treat this morning! The mother and daughters, Griffin Trio, are going to bless us with a medley of Gaither selections. Let’s give them a warm Trinity welcome!” The sound of applause resonates from the cathedral ceiling as the trio opens with “He Touched Me.”
As soon as the vocalists leave the stage to find their seats, I walk forward to the pulpit, open my King James Bible, take a deep breath and shoot up a silent prayer.
“My text for this morning is found in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 10, verses 25-37. Please rise for the reading of God’s word.” The sounds of people standing and the flipping of Bible pages is music to my ears. As we conclude the reading of the morning’s passage, the crowd of three hundred sits back down and I begin my exhortation.
“For those of you who take notes, an outline for today’s sermon is on the back of your bulletin. Power Points are on the screens as well. I have titled today’s message “Neighbor in Need.”
I proceed to share Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan…
Making eye contact with traditional service worshipers, I perceive reactions from alert-involved, to half asleep-tuned out. Those who are involved follow the text in their Bibles, nod in agreement and Amen in affirmation.
Have I put across my three points?
I glance down at my Rolex, noting it’s time for my summation. The instrumentalists make their way to the baby grand and organ.
Will people respond?
“Unless we apply what we have learned, we are hearers only. Will you reach out-to lift up-your hurting neighbors? Do you care?”
People reverently nod in the affirmative.
“On that note, a student at the university was critically injured in a hit-and-run accident shortly before our morning service.”
Hearing of the tragedy, worshipers come to attention. I proceed.
“The comatose young man entered America on a Visa from Iran.”
People squirm in their seats and I lose eye contact.
“How many of you can meet with me at St. Luke’s ICU at 12:30?”
How many indeed? God help us to have the conviction to put into practice throughout the week the words we so heartily endorse Sunday mornings. Thank you for a soul stirring reminder - we must be "doers of the word, and not hearers only."