The Times They Are A-Changin'

They were black skinny jeans- the kind of skinny before the skinny of the current trend. His black vest was embossed with a leaf and vine design and it stretched snuggly across his expanded belly. One of the church volunteers was making announcements while the man paced in the side aisle waiting for his cue.  The long chain he wore around his neck bounced lightly off his full chest as he walked.  His movement was intentional; it was designed to make a statement. He had a position amongst the people. He had a title. He was the congregation’s self-appointed lay leader.
 
I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law.  Sunday morning rolled around and we readied ourselves for church. Upon our arrival we learned the senior pastor was out of town and the church’s lay leader would be responsible for leading that morning’s worship. Change for church-goers is often an uncomfortable inevitability that’s avoided whenever possible.
The cue came and the lay leader stepped up and turned his lapel mic on. He carried a Styrofoam cup filled with water and held it as if he was about to take a sip, but the cup never made it past his chin. He just held it mid-tilt. The lay leader circled the sanctuary as he spoke. The wedding at Cana was the topic for the morning’s sermon; however, between his comments about Peter Jackson’s work in the Lord of the Rings and his Rubin Vase handouts, the message was lost on me.  I turned to my big sister to gauge her reaction. When I realized both my sister and brother-in-law were fighting expressions of confusion and amusement, I felt more justified in my own confusion.
After several more unclear references, the service was coming to a close.  My sister pointed out in the bulletin that the same man, the lay leader, was scheduled to perform special music.  My brother-in-law leaned over and whispered, “If he starts singing a Rod Stewart song I’m walking out.” Luckily for my brother-in-law, there wasn’t room for Rod Stewart in such a service, but there was certainly room for Bob Dylan, the born-again Voice of Protest.
The lay leader prepared to perform “Forever Young” and hooked his harmonica holder around his neck and picked up his guitar.  The first few chords sounded unfamiliar, but the longer he played the more clearly the song took shape. He sang the first verse and before starting the second the lay leader slowed his strumming and asked that the congregation join him in singing the remaining verses.  He leaned toward his harmonica but couldn’t reach the reeds. There on his chest, the harmonica and its holder sat for the remainder of the song as if a decorative piece of jewelry and not an instrument. Rounding into the last verse it was invoked as the benediction:

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young

And so after a mystifying hour, I left knowing nothing more about miracles, other than the miracles of classic song writing and the miracles of good will and patience.

I tip my hat to you, Mr. Lay Leader, for doing a job few have the courage to do. Bless your heart.