So, my first post has nothing to do with fencing or cycling. Not even remotely. Just a random fiasco….
We went to church this morning (lately, this is something of an Event). I was the lector (fancy word for person who reads aloud a passage from scripture in front of the congregation).
The lector does not choose his or her readings; they are assigned based on a rotating three-year schedule shared by all Episcopal Churches (and some other Christian denominations as well) called the Revised Common Lectionary. Some of the readings are seemingly dull, some are very dramatic, some are easy (but hard), and some are just plain hard. A few of the selections fill lectors with dread as they hope that particular reading goes to some other lector.
For today, I was assigned one of the awkward ones: Isaiah 66:10-16. The usual translation used for reading in the Episcopal Church is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), but others are also authorized for public use. The NRSV came out about 20 years ago. It was thoroughly researched, using the latest discovered texts, as well as being using gender-neutral language where gender did not otherwise affect the meaning. Sounds great, right?
Well, here's what NRSV had for today's reading:
10Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her—
11that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious bosom.
12For thus says the Lord:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
and dandled on her knees.
13As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
14You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bodies shall flourish like the grass;
and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants,
and his indignation is against his enemies.
15For the Lord will come in fire,
and his chariots like the whirlwind,
to pay back his anger in fury,
and his rebuke in flames of fire.
16For by fire will the Lord execute judgement,
and by his sword, on all flesh;
and those slain by the Lord shall be many.
The last three verses are just fine — especially for Isaiah, who frequently uses imagery of fire and violence. But how in the world was I going to get through "dandling", "consoling breasts", and "glorious bosoms" without snorting like Beavis on MTV? There are certainly more difficult readings in the lectionary — such as the awful story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son or one of the passages from the prophets with a seemingly endless litany of Hebrew place names — but breasts are tough on a lector. Death and fire is easy, but mammary glands — whoo boy.
So, I spent some time trying to find a translation that I thought I could read. Thankfully, the spirit of St. Marje (whom you will not find listed in any lexicon of the saints) guided me to the saint's very own copy of the American Bible, which I acquired from her estate.
Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
exult, exult with her,
all you who were mourning over her!
Oh, that you may suck fully
of the milk of her comfort,
that you may nurse with delight
at her abundant breasts!
For thus says the LORD:
Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms,
and fondled in her lap;
as a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.
When you see this, your heart shall rejoice
and your bodies flourish like the grass;
the LORD’s power shall be known to his servants.
Okay, so that wasn't a whole lot better. But at least I escaped "dandling". And somehow, it just felt better. The American translation it was, then (thanks, Marje!).
Now, this morning, we had a supply priest this morning (a fancy phrase for substitute). He was not familiar with our Sunday morning routine, as is the case with most supply clergy. This always makes Sundays with supply clergy interesting — especially for the organist, the cantor, and the acolytes. Today's events were further complicated by the priest's near inability to walk due to a recent leg injury, which resulted in a number of (sometimes impromptu) modifications to the liturgy.
As an experienced lector, I was determined that I would not create further chaos. (Fans of horror movies should begin to get a sense of impending doom at this point.)
I didn't trip walking up the aisle. I didn't rip my pants genuflecting. I didn't get a squeal of feedback from the microphone as I muted it. I even read the passage without difficulty. Actually, I thought it went really well. While I always read the passage multiple times at home, I rarely read it aloud. Call it letting the Spirit speak through me, if you wish. So I never know just how things are going to come out. Anyway, today's reading went well.
Until the end.
The readings are supposed to conclude with a pause, followed by the words, "The Word of the Lord." The congregation responds with, "Thanks be to God." I have read lessons from that lectern dozens and dozens of times over the years, and I have never had trouble with the closing sentence.
But today, some part of my breast, er, brain was so happy to have the reading over and dandled, er, done with — without mishap — that it prompted my mouth to utter, "Thanks be to God!" (exclamation point inflection included) immediately after the word "servants". No pause. Nope. Just a perplexed look on my face as I tried to figure out how I managed to mess that up.
The congregation, having had the words ripped from their mouths, was silent. I stared at the lectern, mumbled some attempted correction, and the organ mercifully began playing the introduction for the psalm. All I could do was grin and shake my head as I walked back to my seat.
It wasn't that bad of a biff, but let's just say that the rest of the service seemed to follow my example. It was, um, a bit choppy.
At least I made the cantor crack up, which relaxed her enough to do a fine job chanting the psalm.
Currently reading: Fifty Degrees Below, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Miles ridden today: 36.44 (see BikeJournal.com entry)
Miles driven today: about 9.2 (two people in car)