A Thirst Quenched
July 29, 2012For as many times as I have read the Psalmist's words about being in a "dry, waterless land," and for as often I have read the lament "my soul thirsts for You," my experience in worship today is the first time in a long time that I have known the experience of thirst quenching worship. I am not sure if other pastors and worship leaders and care givers know about the place one can get to when compassion is almost worn out and more is being required of you than there is emotional or spiritual resource to fill. When I lead retreats, I most always talk about time away with God in silence, and solitude. Participation in something that is "other." Sometimes the Otherness is experienced in personal prayer and devotion time, reading, reflecting, attentiveness to God in the ordinary. I know that kind of "watering." But worship that takes me into mystery in such a way that I am lost in "wonder, awe, and praise" is not always what I find. To go to worship hungry and thirsty for God, and to find God who fills the emptiness and quenches the thirst is sometimes elusive. Not today. When we walked into Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the Service of Matins had already begun. Doxology and Kyrie were being sung by an unseen choir. People of all ages were entering the Narthex, venerating the Icons of the Old Testament Trinity and the Madonna and Child. Candles were being lit. It was like stepping into a cool stream and being carried away. Tears welled in my eyes. When the Divine Liturgy began, it was like transportation to an otherness that I had been thirsty for. I got lost in Prayers for Intercession and Petition.... "for the peace of the whole world.. for the church... for civil authorities... for our Armed Forces.... for our city and our land.. of abundance of the fruits of the earth and for peaceful times..... Lord, have mercy." When I opened my eyes, the sanctuary was full of people who had come in all through the worship. Families with small children; old people with walkers. All the families of the church came to hear.... not a choir, not a preacher, but the Divine Liturgy. And to get a taste of the Host and Wine that would be offered. "O Lord our God, whose might is beyond compare, whose glory is incomprehensible, whose mercy is infinite, and whose love toward humankind is ineffable..... look down upon us and upon this holy house with Thy rich mercies and compassion." This parched soul on the back row was held in the ancient words and watered deeply. I do not know this congregation's struggles, if there are budget concerns, who is complaining about the priest not visiting enough, where the powerful people sit and what the politics of the church might be.... you know, the who's in and who's out part. But here is what I have known today: The church stands on the shoulders of a great tradition of faith. The Liturgy, the Creeds, the Sacraments offer a transcendence beyond all the petty arguing of a people who think they hold the only truth. The church is stronger than the strongest, most eloquent priest and the most dynamic and talented choir. If ever I knew that worship was not about me, not for me, it was in the worship at the Greek Orthodox Church today. Tonight I thank God for the prompting to come away to a quiet place. Tonight I am renewed in a song of praise and filled with thanksgiving for God with me. I have entered the Mystery and my thirst is quenched. "For unto Thee are due all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."