The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. -Psalm 23:1-3a
I recently chaperoned Anna's band trip to New York City. The inventory of things I absolutely LOVE about The Big Apple is long. Topping the list are the beautiful churches and cathedrals. Being able to walk anywhere, the fascinating historical significance (especially Ellis Island), Lindy's world-famous cheesecake, the countless genres of amazing entertainment, the carousel and pick-up baseball games in Central Park, the intricate architecture of the buildings, Carnegie Deli's Woody Allens, talented street musicians, and the diversity of culture round out the top ten.
I have been blessed by a variety of meaningful worship services on previous visits. Strolling along Park Avenue one evening in 2001, a sidewalk sandwich board invited me to "Come As You Are" and worship at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal, so I did. Three vocalists, accompanied by a grand piano, acoustic guitar, and a drum set, offered all of the music. It was a glorious worship service, concluding with the Eucharist in the round under the dome, where I found myself holding hands and praying with complete strangers.
When members of our JCPC choir sang "A Great and Glorious Victory" under the direction of Jonathan Willcocks as part of a mass chorus in Carnegie Hall, we worshipped together at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian. The liturgy was familiar and the architecture gorgeous. I remember thinking that if any of our pastors, choristers, or acolytes had an aversion to heights, though, they wouldn't be able to lead worship at Fifth Avenue.
Then there was my visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Arriving seconds before the start of Sunday mass, one of the side-door greeters ushered me in and directed me to sit in the front pew beside a group of nuns. Only after the service began did I learn that the Archbishop of New York was officiating, and the nuns were celebrating their 60th Jubilee! Gazing up at Cardinal Egan as he climbed into the ambo, I couldn't help but feel more than a little uncomfortable, as I was definitely in the wrong pew!
On this most recent trip, I found myself reflecting on "the city that never sleeps" after one of our late-night bus trips passed a high-rise gym hosting dozens of folks on treadmills at 1:00 AM. As energizing as the city can be, I realized that an array of flashing neon lights in competing colors and the constant clamor and noise of the city would wear thin if I were to reside in New York City.
As we walked past Fifth Avenue Presbyterian last week, with no opportunity to even slow down or enter the church, I discerned how vital is our need to seek opportunity for renewal in God calling us to worship.
Prayer for Today
Merciful God, thank you for the Church and your provision of green pastures and quiet waters that restore our souls. Amen.