Let me begin with Two Quick Notes:
1. Did you notice the announcement that we’re going to have a St. Mark Thanksgiving dinner this year? If you’d like to come, and are willing to help with the before-during-after stuff, please drop a note to
2. The Orange County Alliance for Just Change is working with United to End Homelessness to offer three “Advocacy 101” opportunities between now and the end of the year, to advocate in our cities for more Permanent Supportive Housing. For South County, Wednesday, November 20, at the Presbyterian Church of the Master in Mission Viejo. For North County, Wednesday, December 4 at the Muckenthaler Cultural Arts Center in Fullerton. For Central County, Thursday, December 5 at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove. All event open registration at 6:30 and you will want to arrive by then so you can register and be ready to start promptly at 7:00pm. If you want to attend one of these workshops, sign up, at
And now, for the Weekly Missive:
A recent article in the Huffington Post said, “It may be the most familiar dream in the world.” They were speaking, of course, about the “Suddenly realizing you are in your underwear in public” dream. Dream studies folks reckon that the dream is either prompted by what you’re wearing (or not) when sleeping (so let’s not talk about it). Or, they say it may be a subconscious expression of feeling unprepared and risking being exposed in some way (Let’s talk about this one).
Based on my own sleep experience, which I actually experience
every single night
, I happen to think that the ‘underwear in public’ dream is just one expression of ‘anxiety dreams’ in general. Beyond physical exposure, those anxiety dreams often tend to be specific to our job, our daily routines, or our deepest fears. For example, as a pastor I often have the anxiety dream of being in a crowded church building and discovering at the last minute that I’m supposed to preach from a text that I had not even given any consideration sermon-wise. I don’t have that dream
weekend, but often enough to know that I carry within myself the feeling of not-quite-prepared anxieties.
So, here’s a funny thing. The other night I had a very different pastor-anxiety dream, the first of its kind that I can remember. This time I
prepared: The bulletin was ready, the accompanists were in place, the sermon was in hand and mostly in head, and the time was nigh. As I got up to begin worship, there were maybe ten people scattered throughout a cavernous-looking sanctuary. Ten people! And most of them were family to the paid staff! While I know that worship is about the glory of God, not a popularity poll of the preacher, that moment was devastating for me.
So, it leaves me wondering why my usual anxiety dream of being unprepared took on the form of being prepared but irrelevant. Here are some theories.
1. I once read that genuine prophetic preaching results in driving away most people in order to build upon the truly committed folks. That may be true in some churches, but I don’t buy it at St. Mark. For many years my predecessors preached the unvarnished gospel of grace and justice, so it does not fall to me to separate the wheat from the chaff. I just try to maintain that faithful legacy.
2. Perhaps I am feeling the weight of all of the church studies about how the ‘nones’ and ‘dones’ are outnumbering the folks in the world who affiliate with some kind of organized faith. I actually happen to think that there is some encouraging news in those reports, but they certainly raise some concerns as well. I’ll reflect on my reading of those reports some other time because it is too nuanced for this post.
3. A theory that may have legs falls under my general maxim that dreams reflect the dreamer – in this case the dreamer’s anxieties – more than any of the persons who might appear in the dream. I can’t wake up mad at someone because they mistreated me in a dream, but I can explore whatever mistrusts or anger I might be harboring toward that person because of the dream. In the case of the “Ten People in Worship” dream, perhaps it is an expression of my feelings of inadequacy.
4. The most convincing theory I have is that I am still adjusting to the “new normal” that many people now practice “occasional attendance” instead of “weekly attendance,” that children have activities whenever there is space and no longer is “worship time” considered off limits; and that our weeks are so over-scheduled that many people choose St. Mattress or St. Arbucks over St. Mark when they have the leisure of choice. (You may now say, “OK, Boomer” if you wish.)
When that is the case, it seems to me to be similar to when a family sits down to share dinner and one or two members are not there. They may have perfectly good reasons and so there’s no need for judgment. It’s just the case that those who are there miss the joy of their company and the family misses the continued strength that comes from being together. That’s how I feel when we haven’t seen someone in worship recently. No judgment, just a tinge of sadness from missing a valued companion. I don’t know how God feels, so I won’t speculate on that.
Having said all that, I hope to see at least 11 of you on Saturday or Sunday this weekend! It’s a family thing.
Mark of St. Mark