Since July, I’ve been starting my third year in this pastorate. The first year, all young pastors are admonished to change nothing, so the service flowed as it had been designed in previous years. Then last year, I was out on maternity leave during the fall. But this year, with ordination around my shoulders, an intern on my staff, and a passion to do more and better, we revamped this service.
The first thing was to set the table. With the help of a congregant who owns a local salvage yard, I was able to get a tire, a steering column, and a dash from various cars. Then I put the cross in the center (where it should always be, right?) and three candles in front representing our triune God. I borrowed the licenses of all the adults present and placed them around the altar. A small bowl with the items our new drivers would be receiving – an ichthus keychain and a “dnt txt n drv” thumb ring – was put on top of the tire. One of our offering plates was placed front and center for use during the service.
Following a prayer for admission to the community of drivers, these newly licensed folks came and put their licenses in the offering plate. Then a youth read this scripture:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:4-9Then I gave a message which sounded something like this: This could easily be a time of admonishment – don’t speed, don’t be distracted while driving, etc. etc. But that’s what you’ve probably been hearing from everyone else. So tonight, I invite us to rejoice! You were one thing and now you are another and in the church, we rejoice when that happens. We see it in baptism – you were outside the church and now you have been washed and united to the Body of Christ. We see it in baptism – you were two separate people and now you have been united together. We see it in a funeral – you were here among us where we could see you and now you have gone on to glory in God. So, tonight, we have come to another one of those points – you were one thing, and now you’re another.
You are a driver. You are the wielder/director of massively engineered pieces of metal. Your status has changed to be a blessing to the community. Now you can be the one who asks another, “Do you need a ride to church?” Or maybe later in your life, “Let me drive you home.” You have the capability to move people and things from one place to another with speed and care. It’s amazing.
I never thought much about my own driving until I became a seminary student and put the sticker on my rear windshield “SMU: Perkins School of Theology.” I was so proud, so excited to be a seminary student. But then I realized that everyone knew exactly who I was, and whose I was, every time I drove. The person I pulled in front of, the person I sped past, the person I gave a dirty look – they all knew I wasn’t living up to who I said I was and who had claimed my life.
You’ve put your drivers licenses in the offering plate because you are offering that part of your life to God. No part of your life is out of God’s sight or reach or care. So, with that in mind, I would simply lift up a piece of our scripture reading – “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen, and the God of peace will be with you.”
I invited them to stand before the altar, to receive back their licenses, and to receive the keychains and rings with the words, “Remember who you are and whose you are.”
For those of us whose days and lives are so fragmented – a lot of work here, a little time for family there, a little time for self shoved off to the side – it’s hard to see our lives as whole offerings to God. But that’s what I’ve finally concluded is true.
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.Which makes this video funny to me, because it’s true, too: Wrong Worship. Or at least in our selfish, normal mindset it is. But God is always asking more of us – whole lives offered as living sacrifices on the altar – hands motivated by holy love – feet (and cars) quick to serve.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of they love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.- UMH 399