Sunday, October 01, 2006

"Here I Am Lord"

Today was one of those weird, converging days. The theme for worship was Jesus' call of the disciples from Mark 1:16-20. Martha and Jeanne Heckman brought onto the altar a new Christ-candle. It has a spanish-style wooden base with a thick beeswax candle. Around the base of the candle they draped a fishing net and put overturned baskets beneath the table. On the nave was the communion table, with an echoing net covering the table and communion ware on top.
At the last minute I substituted the opening hymn I chose months ago for a more contemporary hymn "I The Lord of Sea and Sky." Our worship team was not familiar with it, so I coaxed and urged Dan to try it and learn it. He and the team picked it up quickly, adding an oboe on top of guitar and piano, giving it a disctinctly celtic flavor. The congregation at both services picked it up strongly and sang with energy: "Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." I googled the author of the hymn, Daniel Schutte and found out he is a Jesuit priest and musician in residence at the University of San Francisco.
Then, during the service, long standing missionaries of the church, Jim and Sue DeVries shared their story and their sense of call to missions. The sermon focussed on Jesus calling ordinary people to follow him into a new kind of open-circled fellowship. The call of God, I pointed out, is seen best in the Table, which invites us to drop our nets and follow him. Everything came together in one of those spiritual synergies that is not any one person's doing. It's like riding the crest of a wave. It's a lot bigger than me.
After church it was raining, grey and cold. Martha and I were invited to attend a dedication mass honoring the 150th anniversary of the local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. We were inclined not to go. I was hungry and tired and the mass began at 1:30 with a meal around 3:30 pm. But, with a sense of obligation, we went. When we arrived, we were ushered right down to the front pews (only visiting priests sat in front of us). In our pew was the Assemblyman and Sheriff. The Presider for the Mass was Cardinal Roger Mahony from Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles (see earlier post). It was so, so high church (less the incense). Organ, choir, trumpet voluntary, and then, when I turned the page on the worship folder, there was the hymn "I The Lord of Sea and Sky".
I sang with tears in my eyes, as the choir and organ launched into a descant. It was so rich and so full. Colors and vestments, robes and gestures, antiphonal responses and Latin phrases. Then came the Eucharist and I realized I was not invited nor included. I watched from the front row with a hungry heart to be invited to that table, to have the Cardinal place the host in my hands and drink from the common cup. But the table is closed, in spite of us singing "One Bread, One body, one Lord of all, One cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many, throughout the earth we are one body in this one Lord."
I sang it, but less heartily than wistfully. Oh if it were only so. What will it take for Roman Catholics and Protestants to share one table? Here I am Lord


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