We had a delightful addition to worship this morning: a husband and wife team playing hand bells. Twelve bells in four hands playing music whose richness and delight I can’t describe. They were fabulous. The music was wonderful and the sight amazing.
But it was a holiday weekend, people are traveling, and attendance was low. People missed it.
I was still a student at the seminary when I learned not to skip church. We had chapel every day in the mid morning. My apartment was a small building along an alleyway everyone traveled from the classrooms and offices to the chapel. One morning, swamped with homework, I tried to duck into my building, but a professor spotted me. “Bonde, you coming to chapel?” It was a professor to whom I wouldn’t have been able to say no, so I said instead “I’m just putting my books down,” and joined the mob heading towards chapel.
It was the most memorable sermon I heard at seminary. It spoke so profoundly to me I was in tears. And all I could think about later was that I almost missed that moment of perfect grace.
Not every Sunday will be life changing, though added together they will be. Again and again we will be taken back into the story of God and the world. Again and again we will be taken back into the grace that is Christ. Again and again the Spirit will breathe upon us, slowly shaping our lives as a people gathered and sent: gathered by grace and sent to a world in need.
Not every Sunday will be life changing, but a surprising number are. One sermon taught me to tithe. One sermon changed our marriage by the practice of Sabbath. One sermon changed the way we ate on behalf of those who hunger. There are others whose effect is harder to describe, but I remember them still. One involved a homeless person who wandered into an elaborate liturgy installing a bishop and tried to address the community. I learned something important about who we should be that day.
Worship services are not repeatable. They are not like movies offering multiple showings each day; they are unique, like concerts. They have a common structure. They contain familiar prayers. But what happens this day will only happen this day. We will hear other bells, but it will not be the same surprise and joy as this day.
And you never know which day will be the day that changes you forever.