Thursday, July 11, 2013
In the Pulpit, Emporia, KS
I recently returned to my hometown church in central Kansas where I was first exposed to the love of God and the sacrifice of His son. I was there on the occasion of my niece’s wedding and I was honored to read scripture for the ceremony. The old limestone Lutheran church was the scene of many Sunday School lessons, good times at Vacation Bible School where we learned the old biblical stories of great adventures and acts of faith (and literally drank the Kool-Aid and ate homemade sugar cookies), memorized and recited good news bible passages about the birth of a savior, fidgeted and squirmed in pews with our parents during the adult services under open windows in the summer, spent vacation days apart from friends who were at baseball games and fishing holes to study for confirmation, and witnessed baptisms, weddings and funerals.
I've carried small white knuckle scars with me my entire life as a result of having my legs mysteriously slip out from under me as my cousin and I were running through the church on some long forgotten childhood week day. The memory is still quite vivid sixty years later, as I was caught completely off guard. I knew we shouldn’t be running through the church and certainly the sanctuary. When I looked down at my knuckles, they were red with fresh blood, as if I had just been whacked with a ruler by an unseen teacher for my rude behavior. It occurred to me that perhaps I actually had been disciplined right there on the spot—and I became more respectful and never ran in church again. Isn’t it funny how those little life lessons stick with us?
Given my rambunctious and adventurous life at the time, it was no surprise to see the response of my classmates as we were finishing our confirmation classes one hot summer morning. Our senior pastor had asked for a show of hands if any of us thought that we might consider doing God’s work when we got older. Since everyone was raising their hands, I sort of moved my hand up so that I wasn’t the odd man out. That solicited a very predictable response from my male peers around the table; “Are you kidding”? “Do you seriously think you might be in a pulpit someday”??? Well, it took about fifty five years to return to that particular pulpit downstairs from our classroom, but I have the proof! And I’ve actually delivered a message from the pulpit in the recent past as I turned the printed pages with arthritic fingers tinged with faint white scars. Many times God uses the least likely candidates to manifest his word in this life so that the divine source is readily apparent. And I still think somebody tripped me in that stairwell, even though I was the only mortal in there at the time!