I’m not preaching tomorrow, but I find I’m thinking a lot about the gospel lesson, in which Jesus stops off home with his disciples and discovers the hometown folk don’t think much of his ministry. Who does he think he is, anyway?
I sometimes wonder what the people of my childhood church would think if they heard I’m a pastor now? It’s a Southern Baptist church, and it contained people who ranged from free thinkers to (or so it was rumored) Klan members. I suspect the roles women played in that church years ago were limited by tradition. I haven’t been to church there in 30 years, save one visit when #1 Son was a toddler, so I’m not exactly up to date on the church’s character or culture.
Sometimes I dream I’m back there, walking through the building and into the sanctuary. I loved the curved pews and the expansive balcony and the stairways leading up to it. I loved processing down and around and up those stairs each year in the Christmas Pageant. I acted and sang on the broad and curving platform that formed a semi-circle in front of the baptistry. I remember sitting in the choir loft as a teenager and singing Handel and Bach for the first time. I remember being baptized there.
And I wonder, what would they think? After all, I came from them. Surely some of who I am is still influenced by those experiences with loving Sunday School teachers and a kind minister who sometimes preached too long having been gripped by either the Holy Spirit or a thought that hadn’t crossed his mind when he wrote out his sermon.
What would it be like to preach there?
I wasn’t thinking of it yet when I was young. I didn’t imagine myself standing behind the movable but impressive brass lectern that served as a pulpit, movable that it might not block the view of a baptism, that most central sacrament in our lives together, the focal point of our belief. That pulpit was so big, I don’t think I would want to stand behind it. It was designed with a tall man in mind, not a short woman. I think I would almost rather sit on the edge of the raised platform, which is really as high as a stage in that theatre-style church.
I wonder what I would say to them, but I also wonder if they would even listen in the first place.
Since I cannot say it there, I will say it here:
Thank you for teaching me the Bible stories that continue to inform and challenge me, I would say. Thank you for treating me with love when I was a small child and planting the seed that church would be the place I lived my life. Thank you for giving me the chance to sing and sing and sing when I was older, helping me to know music as a powerful connection to God, the route to refreshmen of the spirit when I am sapped and sagging. Thank you for the way you swarmed around me on the day you learned I was to be baptized, welcoming me to the family of faith. Thank you for all these things, even if I can’t come home again.