Originally, our congregation belonged to the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. (Now we are in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.) We still say the King James version of the Lords Prayer, because, well that’s the way the Lord said it, right? In other words we are a conservative congregation. So, this morning the pastor comes out without his robe on. No, not naked. He wore a nice dress shirt, slacks and tie, but come on, we are High Church. I was being kind of grumpy about this as the service progressed. Admittedly it was summer time. Well, not any more, this is Labor Day weekend. What’s his excuse? Of course, that’s Satan way, cracking congregations apart over little things.
His sermon was based on Mark 7. The Pharisees and scribes came out to see the Lord. They asked why his disciples didn’t wash their hands before dinner. Just a question right? The Lord lays into them and calls them hypocrites. He quotes Isaiah, condemning them for “teaching human precepts as doctrines.” Mark 7:3 explains that Jesus was talking about human tradition like washing hands before dinner, washing food you bought at the market before eating it and washing dishes, pots and pans.
As a parent, I mumbled sarcastically to myself, “Thanks, Lord!”
This is a common complaint with pastor’s sermons. He bases them on the Gospel reading for the day rather than the Old Testament. A bunch of unemployed, bachelors with no responsibilities wrote the Gospels. No patriarch or prophet ever said anything encouraging his children not to wash their hands before dinner!
I still pondered saying something about pastor’s robe, but figured he follow the Almighty’s example, get indignant and call me a hypocrite by quoting Isaiah. .
The service moved on. We got to the new version of the “Great Thanksgiving” We use to sing, “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” But, in this politically correct age, they’ve changed it to “It is right to sing our thanks and praise.” Sort of neutering the Almighty. We had a big thing recently about gay clergy too. Many congregations left the ELCA over the issue. We get our shorts in a knot over a lot of stuff Jesus didn’t think was important enough to discuss.
So, all this rumbled through my mind, when communion started. We sing while people go up to the railing around the altar in groups to take the wine and bread. I started singing the first song, still thinking about the whole don’t-wash-your-hands things.
“Well,” I say to myself, “I certainly hope your daughters were not here today, pastor.”
At which point I covered my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Scripture directs us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord but sometimes my vocalizations aren’t that joyful. So people around me would think nothing of me praying instead. Of course, if they peered over the edge of their hymnals, they would see me laughing in my hands. Pastor’s daughters hadn’t been sitting in his lap during children’s sermon. They actually weren’t here. Talk about a hypocrite! I was red with laughter and feeling frustrated with event. I began to pray in earnest. I prayed on pleasant things; like the young family I’d met earlier in the morning.
Right before church I walked my Black Labrador, Derby. On the way home ahead of us walked a young couple with a toddler enjoying a sunny patch in the fall day. As we approached they got the stout little toddler out of his backpack.
“Look quick,” I recommended to the young mother. ”before you know it he’ll be asking to borrow the car keys and drive a way.“
As the stout little blonde tottered our way, he bawled out; “Bawg dawg!”
All three of us adults encouraged his understanding. His parents tried to explain about showing a dog your hand first if you wanted to pet it. I assured them that Derby was friendly. For her part she knelt down, because she likes children and wants to make herself look less threatening. The parents offered her nose the back of their hands too. The little boy laughed to see Derby’s tongue flicker out in response and joyously touched the shiny, dusty, black fur. His curiosity sated he looks up at us adults and said, “Where’s the other person?”
There had been no one else around us on the street.
I offered “Someone must have an imaginary friend.”
They assured me he had many. Reflecting back at that moment from my pew, I recalled that imaginary friends are really just what we call children’s guardian angels. I suspect that the child saw my guardian angel and that through all the petty turmoil in my thoughts this morning, the Holy Spirit sat with me all along.
I rose for communion with a clean heart and renewed spirits.