Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Another Good Reason to Go to Church
For me, there are a lot of good reasons to go to church. Ann and I are supported as a couple. We see long time friends and make new ones. We interact with people much older and much younger than we are. We reflect on the meanings of God and love and justice, and we recommit ourselves to that work in the world. We notice grace in our lives.
We’ve been involved for over a decade with building relationships with people in a community in rural El Salvador. The relationship has helped us learn about our own country and about people living in another country, and it has provided witness for us of the hope of God’s love in times of war, torture and death. The community has taught us about resurrection as we have witnessed their passion for justice and kindness growing out of the cruelties of war and displacement.
Sunday, yet another good reason to go to church occurred to me. It’s so obvious that I’m surprised I’ve never thought of it before: vocabulary.
During the children’s sermon, Deborah talked with a floor full of kids aged one to ten. She talked about “epiphany,” and asked, “Does anyone know what that means?” When no kid answered, she opened the question to the adults, and Sue, who sits in front of us every week, gave James Joyce’s secular definition, “A moment of profound insight.”
Deborah nodded and provided a more Christian definition, as if she memorized it from the free online dictionary: “A Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.”
Then Deborah went on with her Children’s sermon/vocabulary lesson: “We’re not sure who the magi were. Maybe they were astronomers. Maybe they were kings. We do know that they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.
“We know what gold was. That’s like money. Frankincense was something that smelled good, like a stick-up.”
Ann whispered to me from our grown-up pew that this was new vocabulary for her, too. “I thought a stick-up was what happened when a person with a gun went into a bank.”
I helped her out, “This stick-up is an air freshener.”
Deborah continued her lesson: “Does anybody know what myrrh is?" Nobody did, so she answered her own question, "They got it out of trees, kind of like maple syrup, and it smelled good. It was used as a balm. Does anybody know what balm is?...”
Then they prayed, and the kids returned to their parents or out with a guy named Oz (for real), and Karla started her sermon for the grown-ups. She started by talking about reprobates.
“Reprobates,” I thought. “Good word. I wonder if any of the teenagers who have to take their SATs are paying attention today.”
The unstated lesson: Go to church. You’ll improve your vocabulary. Indubitably.