The sermon this Sunday (Christmas Day) makes use of the Simon and Garfunkel song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Okay, maybe that’s not much of a spoiler, but I thought I should let you know up front.
Actually, that fact made me start considering how sometimes secular songs have a decidedly spiritual message. I started thinking about the time when I first acknowledged God’s call on my life.
It was long ago and really not so far away. I was in a youth group in Webster Groves, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. Every year, our large UCC fellowship group (80-120 students on any given Sunday evening) would plan a spring break mission trip. Usually there were two groups – one went to a rural area and another to an urban area. In each location, we would stay in a church, take turns cooking for the group, and work on a variety of projects with various social service agencies. We would leave on the Friday before Palm Sunday, and return to camp Mo-Val on Easter weekend for processing the experiences and reconnecting the group that had been separated by the two trips. We would finish with Easter worship at which our parents would show up to reclaim us, worship with us, and take us home.
During my senior year in high school, I had chosen to participate in the urban work-camp that was to take place in Kansas City, MO (hence the “really not so far away.”) We stayed at Colonial UCC in Prairie Village, KS where one of our former youth advisors was one of the pastors. Much of our work took place at the (now defunct) Wayne Minor housing project.
One evening, as I was talking to a friend, discussing our mutual ennui at feeling there was something we were supposed to be paying attention to , but not quite grasping what it was, he broached the subject that he thought maybe he was being called to ministry. The thought hit me like a lightning bolt. He had named it! As I toyed with the idea in my brain, it felt right. It felt like truth. I began to mull it over with great intent, sharing my thoughts with only that particular friend. And then, on the way back to St. Louis, someone stuck a Chicago cassette into the van tape player, and I heard this song: I’ve Been Searching So Long (Click the link or the video above to hear the song.)
It’s hard to describe the feeling that washed over me. It felt like truth. It felt like PEACE. It felt like being filled with the Holy Spirit.
And like the song says, “Good things in life take a long time.” It took me another twenty-five years or so to formally respond to that call. And as I listened to the song again this morning, tears welled up as I was once again reminded: “Now I know my life has meaning.”