Late yesterday afternoon was hot and humid, much like today. It is since we moved to Richmond that I truly understand the term “wet blanket.” We need a good downpour with some righteous thunder and cracks of lightning, but no rain is in the forecast right now.
I went off to church at 5:30 pm, grateful to be able to wear short sleeves, light clamdiggers and a pair of sandals. I did carry my new bright green hobo bag with the hot pink lining, $8.00 on sale Saturday at Penney’s. When I got inside the dim, candle-lit church, I stood at the back for a couple of minutes, looking for my friend Lacey, but couldn’t see her, so I sat alone in an empty pew. For some reason, I decided upon a pew that has a pillar at one end, and later wished I hadn’t, because it’s hard to squeeze around that big fat stone pillar on the way back from candle-lighting or Communion. No wonder I was alone.
It was cool enough inside the thick walls of the church. I said a few words to the Creator Spirit, and sat back to reflect upon the week before the service started. We finalized our plans for Cincinnati and will be seeing Tara on Friday. I need to hold my daughter close and touch her hair. Sheila finished painting our old red shed and it is now terra cotta and green and looks new. I don’t know how she managed it with the ladder and the heat, and she says never again, but it looks wonderful. Our neighbor Linda made a tomato tart with homemade pastry and heirloom tomatoes, and invited us to share one night. Walking home down the sidewalk, we noticed how bright and clear the moon was. As always, we had good books to read this week, Weight Watchers fudge bars in the freezer, and pets on our laps or snoring in the corner.
Just before the service began, my ears picked up an odd sound, very much like a cow mooing in a pasture. Must be something outside, I thought. Then the pianist, the harpist, and the flute player began the prelude. One of the priests read the opening poem. All of us sang the first hymn, We All Are One In Mission, the words and tune unfamiliar to me but easy enough to follow. A lady behind me, who sounded tall and elderly, sang out with confidence and enthusiasm, off-key. Terribly off-key. Then the priest read a prayer for evening “…our love and encircler/Each day and each night,/Each light and each dark,/Be near us, uphold us,/Our treasure and our truth.”
Just before the Reading from the Gospel, it was quiet, and I heard the cattle lowing again. It wasn’t outside. Somewhere across the aisle and behind me, someone who sounded large and male was sound asleep. The acoustics in the church are excellent. Had the reading been about shepherds watching over their flocks, the lowing might have added a certain atmosphere. But the Reading was actually about the disciples asking Jesus what sign he is going to give them so that they can see it and believe. Jesus, of course, has been walking on water, calming storms, feeding thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes, and so on. But the disciples want another sign, like bread from heaven. Jesus tells them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
The Reading concluded, and silence was observed, except of course by the dedicated snorer. The man in front of me looked around and quietly laughed once, into his lap. Weezie, one of the priests, gave the brief Reflection. I like it best when Weezie tells a story with herself in it, but she didn’t this time. Relating to the Gospel, she asked us to think about the signs we are looking for, versus the signs that are right there in front of us every day. Ordinary things.
“Ask yourself,” Weezie said, “what is it you are coming here for. And receive what you get.”
Ordinary time. Our treasure and our truth.