Of That Which Matters
To begin at the end, verger Joe Malek is doing fine after feeling “lightheaded” at the 10:00 AM service on November 19. He was treated at Beverly Hospital and released on Monday after overnight observation.
Now for those who were not at the 10:00 AM service on November 19, here’s the story.
Up until the Gospel Procession, the worship service was proceeding in its standard fashion. There is a certain comfort in the regular patterns of worship, I think, and I find myself feeling a spiritual link with faithful folks who have gone before me for many generations as we move from opening prayers into the readings from the Bible.
I watched as the Gospel procession went down the aisle, Crucifer, Verger and Deacon each in fulfilling their appointed roles. I began to mentally prepare myself to move to the pulpit after the Gospel reading was completed, listening one last time to the gospel text which I’d been working with in my mind all week long.
And then, I noticed that Verger Joe Malek was beginning to sway and his color was quickly becoming ashen. By the end of the reading, he was sitting in a pew and gradually stretching out. Dr. Tony Mason and Dr. Sandy McIntyre moved to him to assess the situation. Luther Zeigler, the Celebrant, moved down into the aisle to be present with Joe and his helpers. Luther offered a prayer for Joe, and as we awaited the arrival of the ambulance, we sang a hymn, and then another, and another. Somehow, it seemed quite natural and reassuring to sing the familiar words of hymns.
When Joe had been taken off to the hospital, Luther transitioned us to the sermon.
While I was fully prepared to preach, it was abundantly clear to me that all of us had already “seen” a sermon, namely, that which matters the most – to us and to God – is the well-being of one another and the support of one another at times of need. The most powerful sermons don’t always require words.
So I said as much in a few sentences from the pulpit, reminding myself and all of us that our true hope always rests in the grace and love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. I then offered the prayer with which I had planned to close my sermon. Several of you have asked to see that prayer in print, and I am glad to share it, with gratitude for the love of God in all times and places:
Author of the world’s joy, bearer of the world’s pain,
At the heart of all our distress, let unconquerable gladness dwell.
To see you is to see the end and the beginning.
You follow me and you go before, you are the journey and the journey’s end. —