My husband gets 3 Sundays off a year. While 3 Sundays off is more than some pastors get, we still have to consider carefully how to best use these Sundays. Last year we used 2 of the Sundays for vacations (because we’ve found that a vacation isn’t really a vacation when he still has to write a sermon) but saved the third Sunday for after Sweet Pea was born. That way he could take a full week off as we tried to settle into our new normal.
Unfortunately, the week Sweet Pea was born was a Sunday that my husband hadn’t lined up an “on call” substitute (it was Thanksgiving weekend and his go-to subs were either already booked or out of town). My husband suggested that he take the following Sunday off but I was anxious to get Sweet Pea baptized on that Sunday. I came up with a different solution: He get a substitute pastor to preach but he would do the rest of the service, including the baptism. My rational at the time (which was just a few days postpartum, so not thinking clearly) was that not writing a sermon would free up time in his schedule during the week and that Sunday could still seem vacation-like. It made sense in the moment. :p
At any rate, the night before the baptism we were under a winter storm advisory. Several inches of snow was predicted to fall overnight and continue until late morning. I spent that Saturday fretting about the possibly of church being cancelled and not being able to get Sweet Pea baptized. I started asking my husband if we could still do the baptism even if church was cancelled. One of the in town elders could witness it for the sake of good order and whatnot. Worry, worry, worry. Fret, fret, fret.
Sunday morning arrived and while the roads weren’t great, members who lived in town could still safely get to church. The service was still on!
We arrived at church about 20 minutes prior to the service. I rushed to get Babykins settled and Sweet Pea dressed in her baptismal gown. However, since family members were there to help, we were actually settled into the pew in time for the pre-service announcements. As my husband read through the announcements, he casually mentioned, “Well, Pastor M. hasn’t arrived yet, so let’s hope he gets here in time for the sermon. Otherwise, I’ll be preaching off the cuff!” Since I have a terrible poker face, my husband glanced at my face and stated,
If you read the title of this post, you can already guess what happened: Pastor M. didn’t make the service. So my husband preached a five minute sermon without any preparation. I missed most of the sermon because I was feeding Sweet Pea but apparently the congregation liked the content. Definitely not a Sunday off for him, but it made for a memorable service!
Note: Pastor M. was fine and had a legitimate reason for missing the service (as could have been assumed since pastors don’t just forget to go to church). His car had slid off the snowy road and got stuck in a ditch. He had texted my husband to tell him this but my husband had already locked his phone in his office.
Today we observed All Saints’ Day at church (which technically falls on November 1 but is observed on the closest Sunday following that date). Besides remembering all the saints-those still living as well as those who have already fallen asleep in the faith–All Saint’s Day means great hymns. One of my favorite hymns for this day is “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White” (Lutheran Service Book 676).
It’s not just the text of this hymn that makes it one of my favorites, it’s also the personal memories. Our vicarage congregation was able to purchase LSB hymnals because of a memorial given when a faithful member suddenly died. On the day the hymnals were dedicated, we sang this hymn because it was one of her favorites (and it was fitting, seeing how she is now a member of the host, arrayed in white). Almost two years later, we sang this hymn on the day of Baby Girl’s baptism.
It may be strange to remember a dead woman that I barely knew when my young daughter was baptized. However, that is what baptism is about: faith and salvation, so that we too can join this host in heaven.
I fervently pray that I will be placed in the grave long before Baby Girl. But I also fervently pray that she will have a blessed end and join the saints in heaven.
Behold a Host, Arrayed in WhiteBehold a host, arrayed in white, Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright! With palms they stand; Who is this band Before the throne of light? These are the saints of glorious fame, Who from the great affliction came And in the flood Of Jesus’ blood Are cleansed from guilt and shame. They now serve God both day and night; They sing their songs in endless light. Their anthems ring As they all sing With angels shining bright. Despised and scorned, the sojourned here; But now, how glorious they appear! Those martyrs stand, A priestly band, God’s throne forever near. On earth they wept through bitter years; Now God has wiped away their tears, Transformed their strife To heav’nly life, And freed them from their fears. They now enjoy the Sabbath rest, The heavn’ly banquet of the blest; The lamb, their Lord, At festive board Himself is host and guest. O blessed saints in bright array Now safely home in endless day, Extol the Lord, Who with His Word Sustained you on the way. The steep and narrow path you trod; You toiled and sowed the Word abroad; Rejoice and bring Your fruits and sing Before the throne of God The myriad angels raise their song; O saints, sing with that happy throng! Lift up one voice; Let heav’n rejoice In our Redeemer’s song!