Sunday, February 07, 2016
Something short of perfect
When my kids were younger and we went camping with the cousins, nights away from home and television and streetlights meant games. As the last streaks of sunset faded into the night sky, we'd start off perhaps with Memory, and once everyone had put on socks and sweaters and settled in, we'd choose teams for Pictionary. My family is pretty competitive--we're not sore losers, but we do prefer to win--so it's important that the teams are fair, with skilled and unskilled, young and old players equally divided between teams.
Eliza always wanted to play Pictionary, and Eliza has Down syndrome and the intellectual disability that goes with it. Whose team would she be on? Did she have to have a turn to draw, like everyone else? Would she be able to draw the random thing that came up on the card for her turn? What if she didn't know what it was?
We adapted. We made some new rules. We found ways to give her regular turns just like everyone else. She was happy and excited to be the center of attention and take her turn with pencil and paper, and we had a lot of noisy fun until campground quiet hours arrived at 11 p.m.
Did simplifying the game for Eliza give her team an advantage that was unfair to everyone else? Probably it did. We all had to give up a little bit of what we thought was "fair" in order for her to be included. We also had to be a little more gracious about bragging rights as winners and losers. But the game was better when everyone was included.
In churches we celebrate the idea of inclusion. Jesus is pretty clear about including everyone when he says "Come unto me." But we don't often acknowledge that to include everyone, individuals may have to give up some things and we might even be called on to celebrate the bumps and rough patches rather than judge them.
Our Transfiguration worship service this morning began with an awkward moment. The school handbell choir, students in grades 6–8 who I've been rehearsing with for a couple weeks while their teacher is on leave, was scheduled to play two pieces as the prelude. Neither piece is memorable music--they're short teaching pieces, with fun things in them like thumb damps and marts. As we finished the first and prepared to play the second, the pastor came to the front of church and started the pre-service announcements.
What to do? Darn it, we'd spent serious rehearsal time on "A Joyful Ring," and we were not going to be back to play it on, say, the Fourth Sunday in Lent. So before the organist had a chance to introduce the entrance hymn, we raised our bells and chimes, I beat out a measure, and we played.
So yes, the congregation was a little inconvenienced. They had to figure out what was going on and stand and wait and listen before singing "Love Divine All Love Excelling" (a much better piece of music). My back was turned so I didn't see, but I'm sure some folks didn't know if they should be watching the ringers in the balcony or turn around as directed to face the processional cross.
But they were fine. They gave up a little bit of comfort so that the kids could play. It was a small moment of grace, of God's grace appearing in us.
There have been other moments like that at my church, especially as many people, not all of them regular church-goers, came to a funeral last week for a young man who died tragically and much too soon. There were rough patches in friends' and relative's participation in the eulogies and in the liturgy. There were rough places for all of us, because--well, many tears were shed. But when we share the grief of others--and give up our own comfort--we become God's sweet tears, a sign of God weeping with us and holding us.
If we followed the Pictionary rules to the letter the game would be (might be?) perfectly fair. If everything in worship were slick and smooth and stylistically unified, it might be considered great art and certainly for many people it would be inspiring. But we'd be leaving people out.
We live on the plain, not Transfiguration's mountaintop. We live on the plain where our imperfections are where Christ's love and healing are revealed. Thanks be to God!
This month marks the tenth anniversary of The Perverse Lutheran. The first post was published on Transfiguration Sunday 2006. There's plenty of imperfection on display in the 277 posts I've published since then, and more failings in the drafts that never were published. Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me.