I know I said I wouldn't write about the patients I serve, but I've been reflecting on a situation that I see frequently: movie organizing. In the psychiatric hospital where I work, there are common rooms on each floor and each of them have a television and VCR. Yeah, you read that right. VCR. We're talking old school, my friend.
A funny thing happens with the VHS tapes each week. They get organized. Many times. Sometimes many times in a day.
Sometimes a manic patient will approach the entertainment center and scatter the movies, searching for a recognizable one. But like I said, our hospital has VCRs, which means we have VHS tapes, which means we have old movies. Not really old, like classic old. But old like Mystic Pizza and (the original) Total Recall. So the patient isn't likely to find a movie that was made in the last 20 years.
And then another patient will come along. Maybe one with an OCD diagnosis. Or maybe they’re just bored from looking at the same walls all day. And they will organize the crap out of those VHS tapes. Sometimes they put them in alphabetical order. Other times they sort them by the color of their covers. I’ve yet to see someone organize them based on topic, but I’m sure it has been done. Each week the VHS tapes are organized in a different manner. And each week they get disheveled once again.
This pattern reminds me of sermon preparing, writing, delivering and hearing. So much time is spent, meticulously putting the words together. Inviting the Spirit to speak. Proclaiming the Good News.
And then coffee hour comes and goes, we all head home and the words are disheveled. We (pastor and congregation alike) jump back into our habit of thinking we know everything. The Word starts to fade and by Wednesday it is but a distant memory. And the preacher must start all over. Organizing those words once again into truth that needs to be heard. Like the process of organizing those VHS tapes, it may seem futile. Yet I believe this is important work and I look forward to finding my own Spirit led pattern as a parish pastor.