This past Sunday morning (that's when I started to write this) wasn't really all that sunny, just very very warm. A jolt of summery weather at the tag end of April. When I stuck my face out the kitchen door around 6 a.m. I was astonished to find the air quite warm already--53 I think it was--and moist and earthy smelling, too.
After a long walk on the beach at near-dead low tide, making the beach seem to stretch for miles, I found myself singing an old children's song from way back in my childhood--was it from first grade? I taught it to Bekah and Anna, too, when they were younger.
One sunny April morning as I was walking through the wood
I came where Jack the Preacher upon his pulpit stood.
I bowed to him politely and said, "What is your text today?"
But Jack the Preacher stood there without a word to say.
(It's a little early for Jacks-in-pulpits to be visible around here, though they will be up before long. Maybe the song was written for a more southern location like Connecticut or even Pennsylvania. Or maybe April simply fits the song's rhythm better than May.)
"But Jack the Preacher stood there without a word to say."
I had a good time pondering that line--first, the unlikeliness of a preacher wordless in the pulpit (or anywhere else for that matter).
Then, the resemblance of Jack's tongue-tied state to a clergyperson's worst nightmare, a common feature of my own anxiety dreams for years: to find myself in church before a full congregation without text or sermon notes and with the sure knowledge that I've forgotten to do any preparation at all.
I flip back and forth through the Bible and/or the Book of Common Prayer, but the light is dim and the pages have gotten scrambled. Nothing's in its proper place. The congregation grows restless.
In some dreams I wing it--such eloquent nonsense!--and in other dreams I keep stalling (oh so gracefully, of course) and the people give up and leave.
And finally, the thought came to me Sunday (this entire reverie lasted about 90 seconds) that a preacher wordless and speechless at sermon time might not be such a bad thing.
Silence. Ahhhh, silence. A chance to breathe, settle down, get still; to look out the window (if the glass is clear); to smell flowers, candle wax, dust, whatever is there; to feel your own heartbeat. Silence beats fluff or filler most days.
And that reminds me of those rare times (in real life) when I was "pinch-preaching" at the very last minute, and rather than try to make something up, I would invite some silent reflection after a very brief comment or two. People usually LOVED those "sermons"!
(By the way, a little internet research tells me that Jacks-in-pulpits are poisonous, causing nasty things to happen to one's lips, mouth, and throat if ingested, and worse things if not treated. I can't imagine wanting to eat one, however.)
About the image: I've recently been playing with colored paper (it all started with some post-it notes). This one feels kind of "sunny April morning"-ish to me.