Some years ago, when I lived in Florida, I had a roommate who loved to play a video game in the Persona series, out of Japan. In this role playing game, the only people who can save the world from darkness are a group of people who are alert and aware during a time of night when almost everyone is asleep, and of course these people are congregated in an elite high school once their abilities are recognized. The cost of their abilities, or using them to fight evil, was being tired in class the next day, so one had to blend enough nights of good sleep to allow for productive days in school and enough productive nights to be successful in ridding the world of dangerous evil. It was an intriguing concept, to say the least. The more familiar concept of persona, from the dictionary, refers to persona as a public face, or as a character in a play or some other type of drama, or simply as a person. All of these would apply to me, and all to my day today.
Waking up after a night of somewhat poor sleep, I wished to do some reading and some writing before I got ready for church, and I was able to do some, even if I did not end up doing any eating, as I had wanted to do so as well. My compulsive need to explain myself, and what I meant and did not mean in some of my own writing over the course of the last few evenings outweighed my desire to eat, as I hoped I would be able to snag some food after services, which did not end up being the case either, but that is a story for a little while later. As it happens, the reading for the chronological Bible reading program I am doing this year with a Bible designed for those whose grasp of the English language is a bit shaky  has been going through the book of Job over the past few days. What we see in the book is a set of dramatic dialogues where Job is seeking to defend his integrity to an audience of friends who believes that his intense suffering is the result of some dark sin of his, and where he is faced with the unpleasant dilemma of having to question God’s justice in order to defend his own honor, all the more pointed because the fierceness of his self-defense leads many readers to accuse him of all manner of evil sins, not realizing that Job’s integrity was well-regarded by God all along, and that God’s blessing of Job, once he had ceased to complain against God’s heavy hand, was designed to speak against the sort of facile minded prosperity gospel that has been common among privileged areas of religious societies as long as human beings have looked down on their neighbors.
After driving to services, I arrived in time to go to choir practice and sing both the song that we are planning on performing next week, as well as a new song that I had done with a vocal quintet several times over the past few years here in Portland, and so it was easy for me to sing loudly, as I am wont to do. After practice was done I hung around, having the vague sense that my music practice was not yet done, and lo and behold I had entirely forgotten that the teen/young adult choir was singing today, because I had not originally been part of the number that was originally to be sung today, because the soloist has been suffering with some problems with her voice and was just able to return to services today after two weeks gone, meaning that we had to go with another number we had started recently but been able to learn. And so I had a surprise youth choir performance today that I had not entirely remembered until we were practicing and getting ready for the sound check. Sometimes I suppose I can be a bit too absent minded. As it happened, the most evocative and expressive singers for the biblically-based Kentucky white Gospel song we sang were all standing in a row, which worked out well, I think.
Having special music today that I had not planned to do, especially since it means that after having several weeks straight of special music last month, this was the first of four straight weeks of special music yet again, meant that my schedule had to shift for Sabbath School, and so immediately after the practice, and after being asked to give the closing prayer by the song leader, who happened to also be in our youth choir, I rushed off to teach my rather large class today about the awkward encounter between Esau and Jacob as Jacob returned to the promised land . I was glad to be finishing up my discussion when the sermonette ended , and was pleased to see in the notes that were given to me by someone who had been able to listen to the sermonette that the message had been straightforward in talking about a “difficult scripture” that the pastor had expressed an interest in someone speaking about. Our youth choir performance went well, as I spoke to someone after services who wished for more upbeat but scripturally sound numbers, something our youth choir is well-equipped to perform. While standing before performing, though, I found it more than a little awkward that the pastor made lots of jokes about how one knows one is at the right time for marriage, seeing as the subject is somewhat of a sore spot for me personally, as I write about from time to time.
Today’s sermon was a video from the Home Office about the vision of our church for the next year. In this video the minister spoke a great deal about some areas of personal interest. To give one instance of this, he spoke about the training that many of our church writers have taken. Even I have taken some of it, and so has at least one of our other writers in the local congregation who writes for the larger church. He spent a particularly large time talking about the various personas that people are encouraged to write to. I had mixed feelings about this. On the other hand, I have a certain degree of agreement for the desire to write for a particular audience, and undertake that approach in my own writing, as diverse as it is. Some of my own writing is designed for people who share an interest in SQL and data analysis, some of my writing is designed for fellow students of military history, and other writing is designed for people who share a background in the Church of God, and so on and so forth. Usually the implicit knowledge that is assumed in the writing is a signal as to what audience one is writing for, as those who do not share the context would have a hard time knowing what I was talking about, and an even harder time caring about. At the same time, the small number of personas in mind for the entire body of organizational literature led me to wonder if there was any attempt being made to write to someone in my own spot, seeing as my own life and background did not really fit any of the personas that were being discussed. My own persona would be something like this: Nathan is a single man in his mid-30’s, active in his local congregation, frustrated about the lack of marriage and marriage prospects, well-read and generally knowledgeable about the Bible and world events, and looking for ability to apply God’s ways in life and a secure place in God’s family. It made me feel strangely sad that I might not even be a target that was being aimed at when it came to the writings of other people, since I dearly love people writing to me and with me in mind, addressing my own concerns.
After giving the closing prayer and chatting briefly with someone who sat near me, I went to help set up and prepare for the sermonette workshop, which began after a few minutes once a critical mass had arrived at the appointed places, which we had reached more or less by accident. We were divided into three groups, with my group being made up of one fellow young adult and a couple of more seasoned people, with some assistance from one of the elders who had helped to organize everything, and our group ended up with Colossians 2:14 as our “problem scripture” to brainstorm a sermonette to based on some principles and organization techniques that we had just gone over. Naturally, I volunteered to write the ideas, organize them, and present them, and then to agree to give a sermonette on that verse according to the outline provided next month at our next sermonette class, which is scheduled for the Sabbath when many ladies will be away at their retreat, and when I have my next Sabbath School scheduled. Not only was this Sabbath a day where there was no rest for the wicked, but it appears that this is likely to be a frequent occurrence, which has been duly noted. As Robert Frost once wrote, “For I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”