Tuesday, March 20, 2012

sunday sermon in willmar

this past weekend I drove to willmar, mn, twice as far on the west side of the hub as we are from the east, directly into lakes and woods and beaver ponds next to the road. I was asked back in november to speak at the uu church there and to sermonize on a uniquely uu subject. I gave my sermon about prayer and somehow it didn't feel right.

by that I don't mean the sermon itself didn't feel right, although I may not have been feeling as good in delivering it as I have in the past. the sermon itself is unaffected but I've heard that the feelings of the sermonizer can affect the way an audience experiences it, and it might be that that's what I felt. I was excited about the sermon--I think it's a good one that I enjoy reading to people--and I felt pretty good about the circumstances of being in willmar where I was surrounded by lakes and trees and the building itself, a century-old former xian science church, was beautiful and old-smelling and comfortable. that day's attendance was smaller than I'd expected, about 25, but that's a larger turnout than I usually got at menomonie and there were several kids and a teen there too. but I was on the younger end of the age spectrum, a couple young families there, and a single woman attendee I'd hoped to have the chance to speak with as she sat forward in the last pew the whole time in that stance of great interest people have when they're surprised.

but something didn't seem right, whatever that might mean, and I'm not certain why. I arrived about 6 the previous evening at a home where a lovely woman named mary lou was kind enough to put me up, and she'd invited several members over to dine with us. the night was spent talking about uu denomination and local congregation matters and birds and gardening and gazing at jupiter and mars and venus in the sky above eagle lake and drinking red wine--I drank red beer--and when I finally crawled into bed at 10 to read and play scrabble by phone with my wife, I was tired in a good, at-rest way and slept the sleep of the just plain tired.

on the drive there I'd stopped to wander at a park in waverly named for local son hubert humphrey and that was fine. I was relaxed into my seat, listening to the radio and watching the sun go down ahead of me so it seemed as if I was heading into it, a sensation I always loved when I lived in my vehicle and retain. in other words, all the very subjective events pointed toward a wonderful sense of peace and oneness as well as a sense of having made an effective appearance. still, I could not help, immediately after the service and on the drive home, feeling as if I'd spoken with my zipper open or unknowingly wearing an offensive t-shirt (and as I'd had to point out to my wife, I'd worn a nice black oxford and black jeans with black sneakers and my colorful robert bly vest at the pulpit and not the raggy baggy pants and hawaiian shirt I arrived home in). nothing was said and no one acted oddly but there was something decidedly off in my appraisal of my appearance. perhaps it is true, that we are our worst critics, even when we don't know of anything to criticize.

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