Saturday, October 23, 2010


I ran out of beans last week so couldn’t make espresso for a day or two.  I missed the morning routine of standing at my “altar” and thinking and praying while I grind, tamp, pull, and clean.  I suspect that, if someone wandered into our dining room when I am alone at the coffee bar, they might be reminded of something liturgical theologian, Dom Gregory Dix, wrote.  I certainly am:

Yet it is an uncanny fact that there is still scarcely any subject on which the imagination of those outside the faith is more apt to surrender to the unrestrained nonsense of panic than that of what happens at the catholic eucharist. As a trivial instance, I remember that my own grandmother, a devout Wesleyan, believed to her dying day that at the Roman Catholic mass the priest let a crab loose upon the altar, which it was his mysterious duty to prevent from crawling sideways into the view of the congregation. (Hence the gestures of the celebrant.) How she became possessed of this notion, or what she supposed eventually happened to the crustacean I never discovered. But she affirmed with the utmost sincerity that she had once with her own eyes actually watched this horrible rite in progress; and there could be no doubt of the deplorable effect that solitary visit to a Roman Catholic church had had on her estimate of Roman Catholics in general, though she was the soul of charity in all things else. To all suggestions that the mass might be intended as some sort of holy communion service she replied only with the wise and gentle pity of the fully-informed for the ignorant  (Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, p. 45).  

I share this quote mindful of Lutheran presiders that I know who clutter up their altars with stuff—we finally were able to move the stack of individual glasses to the credence—and their celebration with medieval ceremonial.  “But,” as Ambrose would say, “I digress.”  My point is that this is how I imagine I would look at my coffee bar and that, without coffee beans, I missed looking this way.

I also know that I get out of whack if I don’t preach often enough.  I miss the routine.  When I was recently away for a few weeks, my pastoral colleague talked about the grace of the weekly routine of preaching.  We agreed that it is easier to preach every week than once a month.  Just as there is grace in beginning each day at the coffee bar, there is grace in the discipline of weekly preaching. Taking a few days off from making coffee, I fell out of practice, had to familiarize myself with what I need to do, and learn to trust myself again.   Making coffee every day and preaching every week, I learn to trust the “method.”

So what does it mean that students can take preaching in the first semester of their middler year and not preach again until they begin internship a year later?  With the three or four sermons they preach in class, they are discovering a process and not developing a routine.  How might I help students develop the routine?  How might they preach every week or, at the very least, preach in the interim between finishing preaching class and starting internship?    

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