Tuesday, March 18, 2014

listening to sermons with a crowd of small people and John 4:42

We take our babies and kids to church. They sit with us in the pews, chew on their little chomper toys, crinkle up bulletins, smile at strangers, and make people happy. Or make people annoyed. Some people frown upon seeing babies in church no matter how well the baby is doing. I file that under "their problem, not mine."

Church going families have to decide their plan of attack: nursery, bring them to the service, or stop going to church until the kids are older. We fell into the bring them to the service camp because the very first time Isaac went to the nursery, he got the chicken pox. That's going to freak the heck out of a first time mom of a 10-month-old! Plus our kids don't do so well with strangers when they're babies so the nursery is kind of a disaster. And possibly the biggest reason is that Jim and I really want to be in church as a family and want our kids to know what church is, how to act in church, and to be part of that community. But, that is neither here nor there in this story. Bottom line, the babies and the kids come to church with us. I will say we have been fortunate that our kids do pretty well in church. I know this wouldn't work for everyone.

They are great while we sing, fine during kids' time, okay during the reading of the lessons. Then another song where all is well, but I know what's coming: The sermon. With my other three, I pulled the blanket over the baby and nursed him or her during the sermon. They're quiet and entertained, kind of like a church halftime for them, and I can more easily concentrate. That game doesn't work with Asher for two reasons. 1) he hates nursing while being covered so he makes quite a scene about it, squawking and pulling the blanket or nursing cover back and forth, back and forth. 2) he is a noisy nurser. Apparently he thoroughly enjoys his meal because he gulps and oohs and aahs the whole time.

I nursed him during a sermon when he was an itty bitty guy, not yet distracted by blankets over heads, and the visiting pastor called for a time of reflection in the middle of the sermon. I was mortified because I knew how it was going to go down. The entire sanctuary got quiet and I had two choices. I could unlatch the baby from the breast and we could all listen to a teeny baby scream his lungs out as I tried to discreetly cover myself and dash for the door or I could keep him on and we could listen to a teeny baby glug, glug, glug. I opted for the second option, wishing the seconds of this time of reflection would hurry the heck up. Jim and I were trying to silently laugh so hard that our shoulders were heaving and I may have snorted quietly. Yeah. Pretty sure I did. Needless to say, I did not do any reflecting that day.

That was not my best sermon moment, I will admit, but with four kids in ten years and many, many sermons under my belt, I kind of have it down. I pay attention while gauging how much longer the kid is going to last, if I need to quietly exit stage right, if I need to pull out a new toy, and if it seems like the pastor is in the wrap-up stage. My attention is pulled in a few different directions, but parents are known for their multi-tasking and this is no different.

A few weeks (months?) ago, Pastor David did a sermon based on the story of the woman at the well. It has stuck with me. I find myself going back to the story, rethinking the sermon. There is one verse that has played over and over in my mind since he read it that Sunday.
John 4:42- They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

I repeat, "We no longer believe JUST because of what you said." 

But they used to. Just because of her they believed. They took her word for all of the great things she had to say about Jesus and because of that, because of the testimony of a woman, they believed. Just one person. Then, because of the testimony of the woman, they met him and heard for themselves and now they know that really, truly, for sure, this guy is the Savior. But it started with one woman talking to some people in her town.

In Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery writes, "All things great are wound up with all things little." And while we're on the subject of books I love, Bob Goff, author of Love Does tells a story about traveling to Jupiter and meeting one person from the planet. If that one person treats you well, you'll return to earth and tell people about the kindness of Jupiter-ites. On the other hand, if that one person treats you poorly, you'll rant about how rude all people of Jupiter are and how you'll never go back there because of the terrible way you were treated.

It's the same thing when someone meets a person who calls him or herself a Christian. Jesus isn't on earth anymore. People can't see God. We're it. For better or for worse, we are it.

People meet us, Christians, and, at least partly based on our interactions, decide if they want to travel to Jupiter again. Well, not Jupiter exactly. But they decide if they want to give this Jesus-following a try. Maybe they've had a bad experience at church. Maybe they've been told they sinned too much or sinned in the wrong way or didn't look the part or didn't have enough money or didn't fit in or any other ridiculous test people are told they have to pass to love God and, more importantly, be loved by God. 

Here's the thing. There's no test. And we are it. We are the little things wound up with the great things. We are the little things wound up with THE great thing. The way we treat people, the words we choose, the love we show, or don't show. All of those things reflect on us and reflect on Christ. 

We, you and I, could be the reason someone says, "I no longer believe just because of what you said. The kindness you showed made a difference to me. The love you shared touched me so deeply, resonated with me so deeply, that I wanted to know more. And now I believe. Because of what you said. I believe."

I've never met Jesus at the well, which makes sense since Jesus is no longer on earth and I've never hung out at a well. But I've felt Jesus in my life, close and personal and deep. Picking me up when I was low, low down. And I want to be that for other people. In the name of a God who is good and right and trustworthy and loving. I want to be that.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! Also, the "be the good" quote is my favorite. And, some people just look annoyed, but aren't actually annoyed. They just might be tired and want a child to play with.