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It had been a difficult week. I needed to experience the smile of Jesus. Frankly, I can’t remember the details, but as a member of the pastoral staff in a large church, you can fill in the blanks. My tank was empty and my spirit was parched and drained. I needed a break from the desert of stress. I earnestly desired Sunday to arrive so I could have a few moments to relax in worship. Upon walking into the sanctuary, I noticed the table was set for communion. Wonderful! I anticipated the quiet, reverent moments that surround this holy celebration. My anticipation was based upon the scores of times I’d taken these elements: I would worship, sing, listen, meet the Lord and then, contemplate the glory, beauty and mystery of God’s love.
Everything was going as expected. After the sermon and the final congregational song, the deacons began to distribute the elements. I bowed my head, seeking renewal in my corner of the sanctuary.
Then, it happened. Two little girls sitting directly behind me came to the end of their patience with “adult church.” They began to poke at one another, giggling and snickering. “Oh God,” I prayed under my breath. “You know how dry I am this week. You know how desperately I need a few moments to be with you. Why did you have to let them be here to distract me?”
I pressed on, trying to keep my focus and temper under control. As the plate containing the bread was passed in the row behind me, one of the girls said, “Oh look, a Barbie loaf.” They exchanged subdued chuckles, but I didn’t see the humor in their irreverence.
No, I didn’t stand up and embarrass myself. I returned to the Lord again, “Why could you not let me meet you here this morning?”
The response came. It was almost audible. “I am here, sitting in the pew behind you.”
I chuckled at myself, and with that, renewal came. Not as I expected, but as it was graciously given. A word that caused me to lay down my expectations, and open my heart to the playful innocence that once crawled up into the lap of Jesus, and made Him smile.
Bruce E. Cochran
American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky