I was a bit nervous at 9:41am. It was March 12th - time-change-Sunday | the beginning of Spring Break | and cold (cold for Houston). To understand Houston, you need to understand our relationship to the cold. When it gets below 50 degrees, people begin to wrap their pipes because it might, just might hit 32 by midnight and by 7am we might be in a dystopian hellscape of ice unless drastic measures are taken immediately. I remember many years ago our pre-school shut down because the temperature hit 25 the night before. No ice, no rain, just 25 degrees Fahrenheit and the city went into lockdown.
So it was Girl Scout Sunday – the birthday in 1912 of the Girl Scout organization in Savanna Georgia. I knew the scouts were coming but forgot several times before Sunday. You see, I have the attention span of the Dug the Dog from the movie UP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSUXXzN26zg.
Squirrel based distraction and forgetfulness come to me naturally. So there I was, resigned at 9:43am on Sunday to low attendance, but ready to give thanks for those who came. I was not sure how many scouts were coming. Then I got to meet them - a lot of them. There was troop 20013, 20281, 20238, 20323, and the daisies 149037. It turned into a great Sunday, not just because they were there, but because they actually came to worship and be part of Ascension. The energy was fantastic. The scout families were so gracious to me and Ascension. The girls were great readers, ushers and greeters. By 3pm I was still buzzing and wanted to hold onto to Sunday morning as long as I could.
That is part of the mystery of church to me. We can plan, we can build structures, we can have great committees, but at the end of the day the Holy Spirit is in charge of worship. Episcopalians sometimes have hard time with this; we are super organized and our motto seems to be “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I hate chaos and disorder too, but sometimes I can mistake a checked off to-do-list for the real ministry of the church – point to Jesus, let the Spirit be in charge, and give thanks to the Creator.
I am wondering how we can reimagine the very best parts of our organized selves while being catalysts for the Holy Spirit. You know what a catalyst is right? It is not in charge, it does not change the direction of a chemical reaction, but it is a substance that increases the rate of reaction. The Holy Spirit is always the worship leader, but we can choose to be catalysts or not.
In order to do this, we might consider being a little less like Charelton Heston, who will only let go with his cold dead hands, and be a little more like Jesus who followed where his Father led and was willing to run a little loose with his planner. When the opportunity came up, Jesus changed course. His attentiveness to the Spirit made him a little like a holy Dug the Dog when he saw the Spirit moving. Jesus would drive Episcopalians crazy if he were walking the earth today. He did not care if plans were disrupted when God called. Check out these times when Jesus abruptly changed his mind.
His mother got him to change his timeline in John.
John 2:3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
The Syro-Phoenician woman changed his mind about when he was going to minister to “those” people.
Matthew 15:22 a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
He was humble enough to trust the Spirit with a redo on one of his miracles.
Mark 8:23 So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then He spit on the man’s eyes and placed His hands on him. “Can you see anything?” He asked. 24The man looked up and said, “I can see the people, but they look like trees walking around.” 25 Once again Jesus placed His hands on the man’s eyes, and when he opened them his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly.
That’s part of why I love the stories of the bible. They are complex and often confusing, but they invite us to join with Jesus in catalyzing worship and ministry for the glory of God. I'm not really advocating for sloppy, fly- by-the-seat-of-your-pants ministry. However, I/we could loosen up and hope to fulfill the following scripture by doing a little less fidgeting. John 14:12 Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I am doing. They will do even greater things.
I was not in control of Scout Sunday, but the Spirit of the Lord was present. The community was really blessed, and that was the greater thing. Thanks be to God!