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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Observing

 Today I was an observer in French political life.  Our older friends here needed a ride to the local city hall to vote in the election of representatives to the French Assembly (I don't have the nuances down quite!). Elections are held on Sundays, a universal day off in France. They greeted other citizens with cheek kisses (3 here) and went behind the green curtain to cast their votes.
It's humbling to see the democratic process in motion in another country when we know how fragile the whole voting process is around the world of emerging (or re-constituting nations). Then they walked back to the car and we drove to church together.
Church was particularly interesting for me today as it was Yves Pizant's final sermon before retirement from the Free Church of St. Jean du Gard. He is my first peer who is retiring and I was there to see how it happened, how he preached his "last" sermon.
It was amazingly unemotional and normal. He has served there for about 6 years and is much loved. The sanctuary sits above the parsonage and both buildings are from the 18th century. Yves' wife spent 9 years in the church when her father served it when she was just 3 months old. Two families devoted chunks of their lives to a congregation and very little was made of it. Maybe I expected more emotion (I know I had profound emotions for each of the churches I left to go serve another one.). Yves just got up there and preached from Romans 15 about the need to continue welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed us. And it was over. We went to downstairs to their home for a big family meal with their two daughters, two grandchildren and Marylene's father (former pastor there) and his wife. We ate for 3 hours and then us men went to Yves' study to watch the Paris Open together.
I guess the lesson I'm slowly learning is that what I observe is not necessarily what is going on. I did not observe a final sermon like I thought I would, there was something more there, something French, Huguenot, Free Church, and St. Jean du Gard. No slide shows, applause, tears, gifts, tributes, roasts or jokes. Just the church being the church on a rainy Sunday morning.

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