A Sacred Sigh at the New Year

The snow was falling at a frantic pace, it was a nice change from the sleet that had been falling earlier, but the howling wind and ominous grey sky did not make anyone in the classroom feel better about the afternoon’s outlook. I was in a room filled with social workers, counselors, and pastors all attempting to learn new techniques to help people ground themselves. The instructor was outstanding. Despite the fact that the entire room would turn each time a branch whacked a window or a new weather alert buzzed on someone’s phone; she continued speaking in a calm clear voice encouraging us to breathe deeply, keep both feet on the ground, let our eyes focus on a neutral point on the wall. We would nod and scribble down notes, about how in moments of high stress it can be difficult to convince someone that such methods could prove helpful. I think the class collectively blushed when she said, “For instance, right now.”  

I remember adding “right now” to my notes before looking up, suddenly aware of what she was saying.  Even in a room of professionals, sometimes we forget the tools we have at our fingertips.  No one could change the weather, but we could breathe. We couldn’t change the anxiety and potential challenges of getting home, but we could refocus.   

That scene comes to mind often. The absurdity of it and the truth in it. Think of the moments when a storm is raging, and we sit staring at the window. When wars, shootings, job loss, illness, family crisis, and personal tragedy seem to swamp the moment and we are at a loss.  In those moments, we oscillate between frantically trying to find a solution or nihilistically throwing our hands in the air. Without a trained mindfulness expert telling us what to do, how do we stop that cycle?   

For me, worship is one of the incredible places where I am invited to refocus and to be present.  From the decision to get out of a warm bed on a cold day to a greeter’s welcome, worship brings us into a time, space, and community set apart.  As a pastor, I feel the way God knits us together. Sometimes I feel it in the seconds of silence after the Prayer of Confession that shifts from a held breath to a collective sigh. God offers us this space each week, to reflect, to listen, to be, and to be cared for. In worship, we are invited to let the storm be while we turn to the Creator, rest in, and relish all that God is. It's a gift God offers without any registration requirements. 

Our Evening Worship Service provides an additional opportunity to practice and enjoy this gift. Welcoming an intergenerational community, the 5:00 service follows the same ancient pattern of worship. Seated at the front of the Sanctuary, against the cacophony of a noisy world, we will sing, we will pray, we will listen, we will celebrate a baptism, and we will rest in God’s love.  Together, we will take a deep breath and offer God our deep sighs before we begin the work ahead.