"How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?" - Proverbs 6:9
Back when I was terrified of making mistakes a couple asked me to pray at their wedding. It was in Michigan, right outside of Chicago, where I live. The day of the wedding I overslept and arrived just before the service began.
I pulled into the church's parking lot, threw on my robe and stepped through a side door with five minutes to spare. The door opened straight onto the chancel. And I was hit with an awful realization. Michigan is in the Eastern Time zone. I wasn’t 5 minutes early. I was 55 minutes late.
The bride, the groom, five bridesmaids, the best man, the organist, the priest, they all glared at me. Even the Bible in the lectern and the cross on the altar were frowning. "How could you? And you call yourself a pastor! The condemnation stung. I deserved it. I slunk straight backwards, stumbled toward my car.
It was quiet in the parking lot. Just mortified silence. And then "Excuse me. Reverend? Don't worry." I turned and saw someone's grandmother (probably not the bride's) near the church doors. She said it again. "Don't worry. They got married. Everything is wonderful. Everything is going to be all right."
Gerard Manley Hopkins says,
"Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces."
And the features of an elderly woman's face. Not in the church, but in the parking lot. Someone I'll never see again, but needed to see right then.
Dear God, thank you for sending us Jesus just when we need him, alive in each other’s eyes. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.