Love and Imperfection

By: Rev. Mark Williamson
March 01, 2011

Early yesterday morning, on the Sunday when Jesus tells us not to worry, I was gang-rushed with problems more or less upon walking in the door. A father and his teenaged son who were on shift to sell “stock” in the summer mission trip didn’t know what to say in their announcement and couldn’t locate the precious box of stock certificates. A woman in charge of the Adult Forum wondered where a wooden podium had wandered off to. Another was selling books for Lent small groups but didn’t know the price. I could overhear Jim, who opens up the building, venting nearby to another member about how he still didn’t have anyone to fulfill his duty in his absence—I avoided him. When I made it to the narthex, an elderly woman informed me that the button on the handicapped entrance door was too stubborn for someone with arthritis to press.

And then it was 8:30. I had spent my breakfast making a PowerPoint announcement slide for an upcoming class, but the flash drive was still in my pocket. It was during the prelude music that I noticed that the glow of the eternal flame lamp—that always-lit candle that sits perched behind the altar—could not be seen. Had someone let it go out?

I confess these are my least favorite fifteen minutes of the week. You know: the dreadful ones when you’re still rubbing your eyes awake, just trying to get robed up and make sure your mic works, while the crowds are pressing in, agitated with mostly non-ultimate concerns. All these reminders so early and so fast that the church is not the well-oiled machine you want it to be, coming at you right and left, just before you need to declare gladly that this, this, is the day that the Lord has made.

I am looking forward to a time when these small but ubiquitous imperfections lose their power to sour me toward the ones I am called to love. One thing I respect (and envy) about many of my more experienced colleagues in ministry is that they’ve learned not to get flustered by the little things. There are enough genuinely important things to worry about in ministry and not enough stomach lining to bear the less consequential. Unfortunately, I am not there yet. I still crave excellence over grace.

Contentment in leadership will come, but also, I hope, maturity in faith. Jesus says we are to imitate our heavenly Father’s perfection (Mt. 5:48)—dangerous words for the perfectionist—but then God’s sort of perfection has nothing to do with micromanagement. The Father knows what we need before we ask, true, but does not intervene with divine tech support or grease the latch of the handicapped entrance door. That God employs human minds and hands for these things is not what impresses me, at least right now with the memory of that latest Sunday morning chaos still fresh. Rather this: that God’s perfection is in God’s love for the imperfect. Neither the church nor the creation at large works like a Swiss watch, and yet God delights in us, dwells with us.

Here’s praying that we can reflect that as gospel-bearers, even in those whirlwind fifteen minutes before the early service.

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