Monday, December 13, 2004

Laughter in the church

I had one of those "moments" at church yesterday. No, not a senior moment although they are starting to crop up with more frequency these days. It was the kind of moment that some people will remember for a long time and the kind of moment when I realized that something had changed for me.

I was one of the lay readers for the 10 AM service

(quick note for any non-Episcopalians in the crowd - during our service we read from both the OT and NT plus a psalm and the Gospel. The first three are read by lay people, one of whom is usually also serving as a chalice bearer (oops more jargon - the person who offers the wine to everyone at Communion) and so is vested. For us that's a black cassock with a flowing white surplice over it. The kind with the big swoopy sleeves)

Anyway I walked from my seat to the lectern to do my readings. This means walking by the choir in their pews. The end of each choir stall has a carved wooden fleur de lis on top (kind of three pronged pointy thing). As I walked by the first stall my sleeve billowed out and snagged. I didn't notice till it pull me up short. I stopped, backed up and freed myself. The congregation gave a quiet chuckle. Then on the very next pew my sleeve did it AGAIN! This got quite the laugh and a big smile from me. And the thought that I had changed.

There was a time, not all that long ago when I would have been mortified at what happened in church yesterday. Church was a solemn, dignified, serious place that had no place for light-heartedness. People talking, children making noise, heck even people smiling bugged me. What did they think this was? Some kind of romper room? God was here and God was one tight lipped, deadly serious kinda hombre who didn't want any messing around when we were here bowing and scraping and begging His pardon and maybe, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, and I know I have no right to ask, let alone think you might be listening, but maybe Sir could you do me this small favor?

That was back when I really didn't much care for church or most of the people who seemed to attend.

Today I think maybe God laughed along with His people. This is still pretty serious stuff - sin and reconciliation and forgiveness and all the stuff that goes along with it. Somewhere along the line it dawned on me that maybe this is stuff I'm supposed to be happy about. Our Book of Common Prayer talks about the "celebration" of the Holy Eucharist. For a lot of years growing up I don't remember much celebrating going on, more like a whole lot of "You're darn lucky we let even get a sniff of this, so get down on your knees and be grateful". I don't deny that there is an element of that present. I don't deserve God's love or his Grace or to share in his Communion. But He wants me there anyway. And He let's me have it anyway.

And that seems like something to celebrate, to smile and laugh a little. If you show up in my congregation and spend the whole service chattering you'll probably still get a look or even a word from me. But I love the sound of babies in church, I enjoy watching children learn to grow comfortable in the pew and at the rail. I truly love the chance to read a lesson like yesterday's that spoke of the joy of being with God and the wonderous things that He can make happen.

And I enjoyed being reminded not to be quite such a stuck up sticky beak and to remember to laugh with God.


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