Monday, March 9, 2009

Sitting on the Bench

Ball players get frustrated when the coach consigns them to the bench. Who wants to sit on a bench when you could be out there on the court helping your team? Watching is not the same as playing. Now shift gears. Think Church instead of basketball court. Preachers don’t sit on benches. They are usually standing up and usually talking. Since the end of December I have been sitting on a bench almost every Sunday. Preachers know better than anybody that sitting there and listening is not the same as standing and telling.

Bench sitting does not come natural for me. My wife keeps whispering at Church: “Sit still…quit fidgeting.” I am trying hard to adjust but it ain’t easy. But I must confess on Saturday nights when the burden of Sunday is not on my shoulders it feels wonderful. When everyone else is still around the dinner table I don't have to excuse myself now and go off to some quiet place and look over my sermon for the next day. Sometimes I used to feel like I didn’t have any word from the Lord and yet I would have to get up there on Sunday morning and say something. What I learned was that it didn't always depend on me. The treasure really does come in clay pots from the Dollar Store! (That’s the preacher.) And on those Sundays when I thought the sermon fell flat often people would come by and tell me how much what I said helped. I wanted to say: “Huh?” But I would smile and thank them. Later I remembered that it wasn't about me after all. God (and I hope this is not sounding too pious) sometimes has taken the feeblest efforts of the Reverend and has spoken tenderly to somebody out there.

But I don’t have to struggle with the Sunday sermon- burdens much now. I am learning how not to squirm so much. I am moved some Sundays when “I am not in charge” to really hear the words of the some hymn and wipe away a tear during the prayer time. I have even been amazed at how moved I have been by some sermon—and my Pastor is very good. But I have been touched more by some little child or someone sitting alone that buried his wife last week. Like the athletes I would much rather be in the game but I learning slowly that grace can even come from sitting on a hard squeaky bench.


  1. ... i have a strong auditory/visual image of gayle telling you to sit still.... i love it!

    .... you'll have to start blogging more to get back in the game. :-)

  2. RevLovette,
    I've been warming the bench for over two years. It gets more comfortable by the day. But a few weeks ago I was pulled from the pew to lead the music in my church. I really enjoyed it. After church this lady I don't know said "You've done that before, haven't you?"
    I'm glad she could tell.

  3. Sitting on benches. I have had some experiences with that. As a young person feeling a deep sense of calling to ministry, I would wave from the bench and call out, "Let me, let me do that! I think that I have gifts to serve here." But often the response was, "You must be mistaken. Only men are called to serve in this role."
    At mid-life a wonderful place of ministry opened up for me as a hospice chaplain. There my gifts were called out and used. What a great experience!
    Now I am retired, sitting on a bench at Marble Collegiate Church, on a beanch in Central Park, a beautiful, gentle touch in the midst of all this concrete. Both of these are rewarding places to be, but I miss that hospice team and being called from the bench by the nurse: "Here's the face sheet for a new patient who asked for the chaplian...go chaplain!"