I’m not as good at mass as I used to be.
The Lutheran churches I was raised in follow an ancient, and more elaborate, order of worship than we do at First Christian Church. It was, and is, similar in most ways to the worship found in the Roman Catholic Church, where many of the same words are spoken almost every Sunday – as creeds, responsive readings, and prayers.
Sunday, I attended the 7:30 a.m. mass at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Palos Verdes, before hiking in the hills just beyond. And the familiar prayers, creeds and responsive readings were all there – with slightly more modern language, but basically the same. Still, I was running a beat behind on most of them. Out of practice, I guess.
The music was beautiful. Though I didn’t know any of the congregational songs, they were easily sung and well led. (A composer, Daniel Schutte, was familiar – many of us have been blessed by his “Here I Am, Lord.”) The building is well-designed, with the community seated around the table, and the sound of flowing water in the baptistery. The homily (Catholic-speak for “sermon”) was thoughtful, and not a word too long. And well over 200 folks showed up at 7:30 in the morning!
So it was a very worshipful mass. I’m just not as good at it as I once was. Which should serve to remind all Christian communities that, even when a stranger has some practice, worshipping in a new setting is always going to have its challenges. A person new to our worship will never be as good at it as we are. And anything we can do to lessen those challenges, and to help newcomers feel more comfortable, is an act of Christian hospitality, and an embodiment of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Lord be with you. (And with your spirit.)