I saw the old man standing near the front of the church and wondered why an usher paused near him, looking over his shoulder. All was made clear when he faced the congregation, still fiddling with the microphone. He explained that at almost 90, he was the oldest of the retired ministers in that church. He thought he was in charge of the service next week, but when he got to church, he found out he was on that day. That’s why he was not robed. He certainly had everyone’s attention! He asked two elders to do the liturgy so that he wouldn’t have to stand so long. He hoped he would remember what he had studied to preach the next week. We laughed when he said he always told young pastors to keep the sermon short, and he thought his would be. With that, we plunged into the service.
I was shocked when the man read the text for the sermon, and it had come from today’s reading. He proceeded to speak on the topic, obviously without notes. He even referenced a passage that came before the reading. As John said later, you don’t preach for 60 years without gaining experience.
I felt a kinship with the pastor, though I couldn’t blame age for my lapse. About 30 years ago I sat down in the pew, wondering why the organist wasn’t playing. Pastor Koepchen came out of the sacristy and looked directly and pointedly at me. I turned and looked back at the organ and the empty organ bench. I’ll bet I was up those steps and playing the first hymn in one minute flat. Since I got my dates mixed up, I wouldn’t have had music with me and no shoes, so I probably played barefoot to feel the pedals, which I couldn’t do wearing heels. Some memories are very good, because you know they are going to stay in the past.