Last Sunday I worshipped at the American Church in Paris. It’s been providing an ecumenical English-language community of faith here since 1814. I went, looking forward to someone else preaching for a change, but with few other expectations.
To my infinite delight, the sermon by Associate Pastor Tim Vance was great: a meditation on dough, using Gen. 18:1-12 and Matt. 13:33 as his texts. What yeast does to dough is provide little pockets of air–little empty spaces. The inside of a good baguette, this smart preacher pointed out, is full of holes. His point was that God is not just in church, or in prayer, but everywhere, in everything! God is in the open air, in the twirling of his daughter, in the laughter of friends. God is in all of space, even when all we see is empty air.
His point was reinforced by the special musical guests that day, an all-male a capella choir from the Philippines called Aleron. They sang a number of pieces during worship. My favorites–in addition to John Rutter’s heart-stopping version of “Prayer of St. Francis”–were by a composer whose name I didn’t recognize: Arvo Part. One was a version of the Nunc Dimittis and one was called “The Deer’s Cry” but had lyrics reminiscent of St. Patrick’s Breastplate: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,” etc. Soaring voices, ascending and swirling in a stone building with vaulted ceiling…the kingdom of heaven came near. God was surely present in those sounds, though invisibly so.
Who knew I’d come all the way to Paris to be so moved by a choir from the land of my birth? Perhaps it was well-described by the final verse of a hymn we sang in honor of Father’s Day.
(To the tune of “The Church’s One Foundation”)
“You hold your children’s future when all will be made new.
Your House has many dwellings so we may live with you.
Just like a loving father, you answer when we pray.
In thanks may we your children now follow you each day.”