The latter part of the week I’ve tried several times to write the next segment of our prayer discussion-starters (by the way, you are free to use these to start discussions with your worship teams, please feel free to do so) but I’ve not been satisfied with it. The negative aspects of the topic kept cutting to the head of the line and I hate when that happens.
The idea came to me Thursday afternoon while I was driving – Why not describe the negatives in story form, like a fable almost, and get them out of the way so the how-to thought-starter can be all -positive?
Since I listen to the voices in my head 😀 I paid attention (occasionally it’s safe to do that). Here’s the result. It’s fiction. I think. I hope.
Sitting un-noticed on the back row of the unused balcony, they knew they weren’t welcome here. Kids weren’t allowed up here unless they were singing with the children’s choir at Christmastime and this was nowhere near Christmas. And these weren’t kids. They were guests, but they were up to no good. Rebellious looking pair that had somehow managed to slip up the stairs to their perch in the shadows without an otherwise attentive usher noticing and escorting them back to the main floor. Nobody had noticed the Styrofoam cups in their hands either. Or the bright red drink inside the younger one’s cup that would certainly stain the carpet if he accidentally happened to kick it over half way through church. Or not-so accidentally; he really was an imp. One was slightly older, it’s true, but they were definitely together, a team if you want to call troublemakers team-mates.
Below on the main level, people gathered as the top of the hour approached, talking with each other, laughing often, sharing the week’s anecdotes, all the while ignoring the music playing in the background. “Is it live? Or is is Memorex?” asked the older of the younger, nodding his head toward the speaker cluster.
It was instrumental, not too difficult, mellow in a way, but he saw no musicians in action down below so said “Memorex”
“Nope,” smirked the older, “Verbatim”
“Verbatim. CD – somebody burned it at home. Brought a pirate copy in to play before services. Nice, huh?”
“Yeah. Was that your idea, Mac?”
“No, but I like it.”
“Me too. Me too.”
They noticed the guest of honor arrive, or at least they noticed him take his seat; he may have been in the building for a while already, they didn’t know. But he moved with dignity, sat down and readied himself for the service. A couple people spoke to him briefly, and they could see from the balcony that though he was sitting in the best seat in the house, he went pretty much un-noticed. Most interacted with each other. “I wonder if they always ignore the important people?” asked the little one.
“Good question.” countered the older. Jot that down. The younger tore a sheet out of the hymnal he found in the rack in front of him and scribbled something on it, recklessly folded it and stuffed it in a pocket in his baggy jeans. “Gottit. Maybe he always wants to have things his way so people ignore him, ya’ know? I know people like that. Just stay away from me, man, I ain’t listening to you, so don’t try to tell me what to do. KnowhudImean?”
“Could be.” The musicians were taking their places. An evil expression crossed the face of the older. “Give you two bucks to find the breaker box and throw three breakers at random right now.”
The younger stood, almost toppling his soft drink and turned toward the stairs.
Mac’s strong grasp caught him and pulled him back into his seat. “I’m kidding! Sit down, man, and don’t get us noticed, Ok?”
“Lookit here.” The older one pointed to the name of the building on the bulletin he’d picked up, and then to the dignitary down below and to their left. “His name’s on the building. Must be he built it or something. ”
“Wow, you’d think they’d be paying a lot of attention to him if that was the case, huh?”
“I would. I do.”
“Oh. Why do you think they’re avoiding him? Does he like it better that way? Man, I’d feel like… I’d feel strange if the building was named after me but nobody talked to me, ya know? Do you think he likes it better being left alone, Mac?”
“Doesn’t look like it. Lookit his face. He’s trying to catch someone’s eye but whoever it is isn’t … nope, didn’t notice.” The music began and they suspended their conversation to watch in silence, partly because they didn’t know the songs, partly because they couldn’t stand the music. While the junior imp rolled his eyes in disgust, sometimes exaggerated his reactions, Mac took a sheet of paper out of his pocket and reviewed a couple of things the chief had scrawled there earlier. His eyebrows pulled themselves into a mild frown and he slipped into analysis mode. His eyes darted from place to place, taking it all in, trying to figure out what was happening at each stopping place in the service. Now and then he’d motion, calling the younger’s attention to something he saw. The little one would nod in agreement, though he hadn’t a clue what he was supposed to be seeing. It seemed like forever before it was over, and the little nap he took part way through only made him groggier.
When the older nudged him to rouse him and whispered that it was time to go, the younger looked up at him quizzically. “But they’re not done!”
“They will be in a minute,” the leader of the pair whispered ” you wanna get noticed? Have to go down front and pretend to repent?”
“Well then, let’s get out of here.”
On the street again, walking away from the stained glass, steeple and hardwood, the junior trouble maker wanted to know. “So what are we gonna’ tell the chief, Mac?” he ventured. “Lots to do here?”
“Hardly anything,” the older countered, “This one’s half-way there already. I say let’s just leave it alone and let it ruin itself.”
“No joke? How could you tell?”
“Ok.. the dignitary, important person we saw at the beginning?”
“Did you recognize him at all?”
“He looks familiar, but no, not really.”
“He’s from Nazareth.”
“I’m serious! It was him! I think he sits there every week.”
“And they just walk around him like that? Holy man! If I’d have known that I’d have been scared to breathe!”
“That’s because you’re evil.” They laughed; they were evil. They crossed the street, ignoring the red walk light, the honks of approaching autos, and the dirty looks from faces they recognized as having been in the building several blocks back. “Looks like they’re out.”
“So what tells you we ain’t gonna hafta do much?”
“Mostly the way they didn’t treat him.”
“The way they didn’t treat him. They use his name in their publicity and promotion stuff, they talk a lot about him, but they don’t talk to him – hardly talk to him at all. That’s perfect for us. Did you notice when they were singing? More of the songs were about them than about him. Lots of “I” and “me”. Now he wouldn’t say that’s wrong, probably, he’s too kind. But it was way-lopsided. Way-lopsided. There were some songs they sang – the words were to him, I guess you could say. At least it sounded like it. But they really didn’t sing to him. They sang and played for each other. Did you see the leader? When they finished that one song he was like “Yess! That was sweet!” The music was -if you like that kind of stuff- but the gentleman in the robe looked lonely. Like he’d rather they just come over and talk to him, you know? Pull up a floor, sit there and talk a while. The speech wasn’t bad, pretty practical, but I got the idea that he and the guest of honor hadn’t connected much lately. It seemed pretty academic to me.” He looked over and realized the younger one had stopped a couple houses back to pet a little dog. ‘”…Just like you’re not listening to me. Nope, this one’s pretty much ours, I say, did it themselves.”
“What’d you say?” The little one looked up.
“I said this one’s pretty much done. We’re good to go. Where ya wanna eat lunch?”
“Are we close to a DQ at all? I love their flame-throwers.”
“Sweet. Let’s do it. Then after lunch we’ll see if we can get some people to let down their guard and cross a line or two. Sound like fun?”
“Yep-it-duz. C’mon, Mac, I’ll race ya!”