Monday, January 3, 2011

A story of correction

When I was little, my home congregation had Children's Sermons, and these sermons would happen this way. The pastor would sit down in the front of the Church, and we would gather around his feet. There he would ask us questions.

We would go to the 8 am service. I was a smart kid. I was a morning person. I always went up quickly to sit right at the pastor's feet and gladly answered the questions.

But one Sunday, he didn't call on me when I raised my hand. And no one else had their hand up, and he kept asking if anyone knew. Obviously, he didn't see me (thought my little mind), so I tapped him on his knee. He still didn't acknowledge me. So I tapped his foot. Still nothing. So I put my foot on his foot. Still nothing, still asking for answers but not calling on me! Then my heel onto his foot, then I'm on my haunches, driving my heel into his foot! Didn't he know I knew the answers to these questions!

At that point he finally, quietly asked me to stop. And it was over. And as I walked back to the pew, I saw my mother. Here eyes were wide with anger, and I realized that I had been bad in Church, that digging your heel into the pastor's foot is not good behavior. And as I sat down next to my mother I asked, "Am I going to get a spanking?"

Her voice quivered (I can still hear it today) as she said, "Ooooh yes."

Then there was the sermon to sit through. And I had been bad in Church.
Then there was the distribution to sit through. And I had been bad in Church.
Then we went to Sunday School. And I had been bad in Church.

After almost 2 hours contemplating the fact that I had been bad in Church, we began the long walk to the far side of the parking lot where our car was parked. The 10:30 folks were walking past us on their way to church... I had been bad in Church.

It was too much for me to bear. I broke into tear and began to cry aloud, "BEAT ME NOW! BEAT ME NOW AND GET IT OVER WITH!"

I had been bad in Church.

I remember the walk to the car, I remember getting in the backseat while wailing. Intrestingly enough, I don't remember the actual spanking I got (although my mother assures me that I did receive one). But I learned that it was a terrifying and horrible thing to be bad in Church.


Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

"I learned that it was a terrifying and horrible thing to be bad in Church." -- Rev. Eric J Brown

One of several things learned, I do suspect. See, what I learned from the anecdote is that little kids ... especially those of the smarter subset ... inevitably learn to strive to become the focus of the Lutheran Divine Service. "Pick Master Precious, buddy, or I'll yank your cincture and that collar becomes a millstone." This attitude is not altogether surprising, as children are naturally accomplished in the fine art of narcissism, from day one. "That comforting and nourishing breast is me, and don't me forget it!"

What is surprising, however, is the de facto enabling of such self-centered aims, by sheep and shepherd ... which enabling hides under the guise of it being but an established part of the liturgical "flow," now.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

It is true that we often want to be the center of the service.

Perhaps it is a choral or choir piece, where people will note our singing. Perhaps it is by extraneous additions to the rites and custom of the service that draw attention to the one who presides, or the liturgical garb "meant to cover" yet awfully onstentacious. Perhaps it is even with the sermon itself - after all, Luther, in his sachristy prayer would have us pray that we not preach in order to garner the praise of men - something that one can easily be tempted towards.

In all things, sinful human beings will take what should be simple gifts to them from God - worship, the hearing of the Word, and they will try to make it about themselves - whether it is drawing attention to themselves, whether it is desiring their own preferences and hiding this selfishness under various guises of supposed holiness (Oh, but we need to be more open. Oh, but we need to be more spiritual. Oh, but we need to have more solemnity)

In all things, whether high or low, ancient or new, we remain what we are - sinners, and as such we will always seek to shift the focus off of God and onto ourselves.

We all must learn to follow the wisdom of John the Baptist - I must decrease that He may increase. You are correct, this rarely happens.