My first church was a suburban congregation outside of Boston, Massachusetts (where I went to seminary at Boston University School of Theology).
I was so excited about my first Holy Week. It was my first as a Pastor and we had a great week planned! I was excited to get to lead from the “other side” of the pulpit and was ready to show my new church that I knew what I was doing as a newbie 26 year old minister.
Then, Saturday, we ate out for lunch.
In the evening, I started feeling a bit off, though I attested it to nerves. But at 2am, I woke up with food poisoning. Really bad food poisoning. “I will not survive this” was on my mind at moments. And by 6am, it was obvious that there was no way I could do the Palm Sunday service.
So I picked up the phone and called my SPRC chair (the committee that helps with pastoral and staff support). I said “I’m sick and I can’t be at worship.” My SPRC chair (as I recall, I don’t know if this actually happened) said “Ha ha, yeah right!” and hung up on me!
I looked at the date. Palm Sunday in 2006 was April First. April Fools Day. My layperson thought I was pulling her leg and offering up a really mean prank on her.
I called back and explained that I was really sick. She finally went along with it, contacted our pastoral intern, and they lay-led the service that day while I stayed home under Chelsea’s care.
Want to know the real joke of that April Fools Day? The laity said it was one of the best Palm Sunday services they had ever done. The pastoral intern and SPRC chair both led the service and most in attendance said it was just terrific and soul-touching.
The real joke was on me. My first Holy Week wasn’t about me and my efforts to prove myself as a pastor. It was about stepping aside (or kneeling, as it were) and allowing the Spirit to do its thing. And to bring a little bit of humility to a young pastor.
My hope for this Holy Week coming up in two weeks is twofolk:
- No food poisoning
- That you open yourself to the unexpected and see where you might be making something “too much about you.”
Blessings and see you in worship. ~Jeremy