It was a poor student’s dream: an unexpected potluck Sunday, just when I’d run out of bread at home. Corn pudding, green bean casserole, rolls, chicken…and the dessert table. There was no cake (seriously, I think I missed my chance), but there sure was an abundance of other tasty indulgences. I had bread pudding, and cherry fudge made by the woman from Texas who sat next to me. Perhaps it’s just because I’m young, but she gave me her card: “The Bridal Path: where dreams blossom.” If I decide to have a wedding sans the groom sometime soon, just for kicks, I’ll know where to get my gown, accessories, and veil, as well as a vocalist for hire.
As usual, the people were wonderful. I was greeted again and again, invited on a hike, asked to a presentation by the historical society (Franklin Roosevelt impersonation), referred to some poetry readings in town, and recommended to teach Sunday School (they found out I am a seminarian). I even received a request to stay after church some Sunday long enough to mosey over to the library and help a woman set up her own blog.
But today was not just potluck Sunday. It was also “Stump the Pastor” Sunday. Last week, congregants had the chance to write down questions and pass them in with the offering. Today, in lieu of a sermon, the pastor addressed them one by one. The invocation began like this: “All knowing God, whose favor rested on Jesus of Nazareth, and whose love is poured out for all humankind, inspire us here to ask questions, to pursue understanding, and to share our faith.”
And so it began. There were questions about evolution, about stories in Genesis, a query about Socrates’ understanding of the soul, and a desire to know how an “old timer” can best serve in the church. People asked about absolute truth and encountering other faiths, about why the Nicene Creed uses the word “catholic”, and about how many of the disciples had wives (and what did those women do while their husbands followed the wandering rabbi?). On and on the list went. He even addressed the question regarding his favorite color. I was impressed by his frank answers, his references to everything from good books to John Mellencamp, and his encouragement to the church to continue these conversations with one another. He ended by quoting some wise words he’d heard a pastor say once: “Our parking lot is for your cars, not your God-given intellects.”
I listened to it all from the back again. I do not sit there for fear of interaction or being noticed. Rather, it is because that’s where the sun shines through the stained glass onto the pew. It is brightest through the window with an ancient symbol for Jesus: IHS. I must confess, missing the "I" I saw the "HS" and immediately thought of the Holy Spirit. I could not help but think of a song I love: “Holy Spirit, rest upon us…”
Yes, let me sense the Spirit like warm sunshine on my face, and let me know his goodness in everything from a young boy’s funny reply during the children’s sermon, to the voice of a gray-haired woman reading to us from Genesis, to the sweet cherry fudge made by my new friend from Texas.