Saturday, September 20, 2014
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Filled with the Spirit
I remember my face burning in shame, wishing I could disappear. If only the floor would collapse so I’d fall into the church basement where no one could see me. My God, these people out there watching me, I am going to have to face them … for years.
It was all Mrs. Moll’s fault … for which I am deeply grateful.
On Saturday mornings, Mrs. Moll stood in front of the south bank of pews in our little church, St. Paul Lutheran, Warren Il. Twenty or 30 of us elementary kids gathered there to sing and before going to Bible class every Saturday; junior Lutherans they called us.
She would raise her hands, a pianist hit a chord and we’d sing Living for Jesus. It’s the only song I can remember from those days. I can still sing a couple of verses at the drop of a hat. We must have sung it hundreds of times to have left such an imprint.
About the time I was in fourth or fifth grade, she tried to shape some of us into a little choir. There weren’t many takers, never more than eight or nine, mostly girls. The few boys who sang had a marked tendency to be sick on Sundays when we were scheduled to sing--and that included the organist’s son.
But I was always there in our frilly white robes, usually standing beside Ron McNett, whose tooth I later broke off when we collided in a pick-up baseball game.
But he deserved it.
One Sunday Mrs. Moll arranged for us to sing during worship. Ron and I were the only boys in the choir that day, and the boys section--all two of us--were to sing a verse of the song … by ourselves.
I knew what was going to happen. I could feel it coming like a fright train blaring through town on the Illinois Central tracks.
The moment approached when Ron and I were to sing. As the girls neared the end of their verse, my face grew hotter and redder. I knew what Ron was going to do.
Mrs. Moll cued us. I opened my mouth and a feeble, wavering note squeaked from somewhere high in my throat. Ron, at my left elbow, sniggered beneath his breath, uttering not a word, not a note, taking pleasure as I squeaked and tripped through the verse as the congregation prayed for me to get done … quickly. Please God, make it stop.
I was on my own for an eternity as Ron’s sniggering continued through the verse.
As I said, he served that tooth thing.
Years go by, decades, and now everything transforms. I still sing, not as well as I used to, but I think God likes it more than ever. I know I do.
And I feel sorry for Ron.
I feel sorry for every boy … or person, for that matter, who never learned to sing, who were too afraid, or tone-deaf, or discouraged from opening their mouth because it was ‘unmanly’ … or not cool … to give voice to words and emotion that open the depth of one’s soul.
I think they are deprived, unable to enter the deepest parts of their souls … and of the wonder of the Love who seeks us there.
In moments, songs run through me: “You are holy, you are whole. You are always ever more than we ever understand.”
And in those moments I understand. I understand the Loving Mystery of God. I know that Love. And I understand that there is more love and beauty in me than I ever knew. I understand that the language of song opens the heart and ushers me into a world where the wonder of God’s love fills me to the brim, filling me with the Spirit and making me glad to be alive.
I understand how thankful I am for Mrs. Moll … and for the day the floor failed to collapse.
Bless you Mrs. Moll. Now I know why you were so desperate for us to sing.
Pr. David L. Miller