It’s been seven months since the 7th Bishop of Western North Carolina was ordained. Since October 1, 2016 I have been the celebrant of the Holy Eucharist four times (and during one of them I got completely befuddled at the altar). The rest of the time I have worn a coat and tie, gone to the 8:00 service and sat on the back row. It’s been a fundamental reorientation.
I confess I have missed preaching. No doubt some of that is ego. Years ago, when my daughter was in grade school, she complained about going to church by saying: “I have to just sit there while you get to do all the fun stuff.” Preaching is definitely the most fun of all the fun stuff. I miss seeing what will happen when you connect scripture and this interesting befuddling world of ours. I miss the energy that comes from preaching and there is that ego thing.
But there’s a flip side as well. I love hearing other preachers. One of the downsides of being the bishop is that it’s always your turn. In twelve years, I seldom heard anyone else preach within the diocese except for funerals and ordinations. Now when I get in my car to drive home, I find myself marveling (in a good way) over the sermon. I say to myself, “Wow. How did she connect those images?” Often I am ruminating over them all week.
Most of all, something happens by walking to the altar with the rest of the flock, kneeling, and holding out your hands to be fed—with absolute certainty that even though you don’t deserve it, the bread of heaven will be put into your hands. Our culture is embedded with a conviction of scarcity—there’s not enough of everything to go around. It’s why we have so much fear embedded into our national conversations. Regardless of what we say, we all get infected. Going to the altar and putting out our hands rewires us. We have confessed our shortcomings. We know we are sinners and yet we get to be part of The Great Thanksgiving.
After two decades of preaching every week, it’s good for me to sit and listen and be fed. Yes, I miss preaching and being part of the show at the altar, but I give thanks to be part of the crowd. One of the crowd who shows up without any food and yet gets to be fed because that’s who Jesus is.
Most of all I am remembering about the core of what Church is. I don’t diminish the need for administration and oversight. I am not for burning the house down. But at the core, Church is being fed by word and sacrament week after week that reminds us of Christ’s love for us all the time.