Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The same old song

Some people I know take copious notes on sermons. I don't know if they file those notes when they get home or keep them somewhere close for further reference. My guess is they've simply come to understand that keeping notes keeps their attention from flitting away, bat-like, up into the rafters of the church.

I carry my own little pocket bible, and, for the last several years, I've scribbled in notes on the page when the preacher chooses his passage, and maybe a single thought or two gleaned from the sermon. If you've done that for awhile, the Bible starts looking used--which I like. After all, I'm an English teacher; to me, a book isn't read unless it's highlighted.

Last Sunday our pastor chose a few verses from the book of Mark, first chapter. When I turned to that passage, my scribbling indicated that he'd been there twice in the last five or six years. In fact, the very same verses were bracketed.

I seem especially conscious these days of repeating myself. Certain memories and ideas spring bountifully from conversations, and when they do I want to throw them into conversation. But more and more I stop myself (maybe not often enough) because I start to fear that some whipper-snapper across the table is going to wince just enough for me to know that I've said all of that before. I'd rather be flatulent.

But last week an entire church paid rapt attention to our pastor holding forth about the same passage he'd chosen more than once in the very recent past. For a man as old as I am, it's almost impossible not to come to the conclusion that most everything we ever say is little more than wispy steam on a very cold morning.

I'm not sure anyone is to blame for such things, and I don't feel guilty for having forgotten two prior sermons on the same passage. I wonder if the note-takers simply slapped their notebooks shut when he turned to Mark 1, but I doubt it. We all got dragged through the passage again, and no one seemed to care.

We just don't hear well, I guess--or at least I don't. Maybe some remembered. And this is not some underhand sharp-stick-in-the-eye for our pastor--everyone loves him, and he is, trust me, a terrific preacher. He's shaped my perception of things. He really has.

But the fact is, all that was left of two well-wrought sermons was some etch-a-sketch tracks on the page of my pocket-sized Bible. No matter how to-the-point those prior sermons were, they were gone, from my mind at least.

But then, probably not from my heart. Probably not. Sure. I'm guessing that's true. Those sermons may not have been in my head anymore, but I'm thinking, just maybe, they stayed in my heart.

Then again, maybe that's wishful thinking. Then again, maybe not.

Right now it's terribly early in the morning, but having thought the whole business through, me and my heart are ready to go back to the class, steam or no steam.


Joel said...

As a preacher I should probably have both a sense of regret and a sense of relief that nobody seems to remember.
BTW, that passage from Mark is the lectionary text every three years (Year B) for the first Sunday of Lent. It also comes up during Advent and for baptism of our Lord (After Epiphany). Might explain why you've heard it a few times.

jcs said...

Thanks, Joel. Count me among those who were not reared with the lectionary, of course. I didn't have a clue.