Make A Joyful Noise … Crickets, Too. All sorts of visitors at our church.

In 2004, a group of friends came to a parting of the ways with the then ELCA bishop of Phoenix. A group of us, including the pastor, literally walked out of our neighborhood Lutheran church. Within days our new congregation started the Living Word Lutheran Church (L.C.M.C.).  For the first four months, we met in the recreation room of an apartment complex where one of our members lived. Eventually, one of our worshippers bought a fairly large home with a huge addition which she didn’t use for herself. “Why don’t you all meet here?” she asked. “It would be fun.”

Gratefully, we accepted. “I don’t have to drive to church anymore,” she joked.

Our congregation of two dozen or so consisted of approximately a dozen active members. All of us took turns assisting during our ten a.m. service. All of us, including the newly retired pastor from the other church, took turns
presenting sermons.

Because there was no organ, Pastor would transfer the hymn tunes to an electronic disk, and all of us sang lustily, if a bit off tune. Some things don’t change!

Several years later, our friend needed the space for her own use, so we found a new home in the carpeted all-purpose room at a local school. The pebbly carpeting was a combination of gray, brown, black, and white tweed designed to take hard wear. One of its drawbacks was camouflaging anything which dropped to the floor. Even dimes were difficult to find, and pennies were impossible.

Grinning broadly, the custodian told us, “When I vacuum after the service, I can keep any change I find as a tip.”

At any rate, I wouldn’t have been able to see whatever dropped, as my cataracts were rapidly dulling my once sharp vision. Shortly before Christmas, I did have the cataracts removed, and my eyesight  improved dramatically.
            During the Christmas Eve service, I happened to glance at the carpet behind the pastor and saw a dark tan, two- inch-long / one-inch-wide cricket come around the altar table, scoot in front of him, and head straight for my chair.

I quietly got up to catch the cricket in my bare hands, but it ran away from me, and scooted behind the altar
table.

            As I returned to my front row seat, I notice the deafening silence. Pastor was watching me. 

Before sitting down, I deadpanned, “It’s a cricket.”

            Someone from the back row called out, “Don’t kill it! It’s bad luck to kill crickets!”

            I said, “I’m trying to catch it so I can evict it.”

            Pastor was listening to our dialogue, but said not a word.

            My face bright red, I sat down.

            Pastor continued the service.

Within a minute, the cricket whisked out of its hiding place and headed straight for me. Someone else saw it and screamed in terror, “Don’t touch it!”

            Pastor stopped. He looked at me and imperceptibly nodded permission. I get up to catch it.

            It scooted back to its hiding place behind the altar.

Pastor continued the service. I sit down and rejoined the service. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the creature appear on the altar. It scurried to a big pot of poinsettias near the Bible stand and whisked up the pot and into the foliage.

            Nearly all of us, including Pastor, watched. At this point, several people were actually shedding tears brought about by suppressed laughter.  Some of them had their heads on someone’s shoulder to quench the
laughter. Most of the others had the silent giggles. But there was one family – you know the type – who didn’t have a sense of humor, and they were c-o-l-d.

            Someone grabbed me and buried his head on my shoulder, and I could hear him sobbing with laughter. It’s Pastor. He said to us, “They teach you how to handle a lot in Lutheran seminary – crying babies, angry
worshippers, sneeze fits, and so on. I don’t recall ever hearing how to handle a worshipper in the front row getting up to catch a cricket. Liz, go get it!”

            I quickly strode to the altar, caught the cricket in my bare hand, marched to the door, and threw it out onto the flower bed.

            An explosion of laughter rocked the room. Even our “cold” family permitted itself a slight giggle. It took a minute for us all to control ourselves. Decorum was finally restored – none of us, however dared to make eye contact with each other.

            The service continued.

            Suddenly a hidden bee or wasp started buzzing somewhere in the room.

The service stopped. We all looked around. Nothing to be seen.

Then I realized it was my cell phone in my favorite dark green slacks’ rear pocket. I had the ringer
suppressed and the machine was vibrating against my chair back.

            Now, once again, my face became bright red. Between my face and my slacks, the colors were appropriate for the season. As Pastor, fighting back laughter, watched me, I pulled the culprit out of my pocket and turned it off.

            Most of us then put our heads down and held them in our hands. Our only sign of life was just taking deep breaths.

Pastor waited patiently, gave the universal sign for cell phone, and silently held out his hand for it. He then dropped it into his jacket pocket without saying a word.

Two of my friends started to laugh out loud and could not stop. Eventually, the entire congregation was screaming with laughter.

A few minutes later, it was once again quiet.

My face remained flaming red.

Patting his pocket, Pastor says, “Well, we are directed to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

Pandemonium erupted. He quickly said the final blessing, and we headed for the refreshments’ table.

During food and drink, Pastor returned my cell phone and made a toast with a diet soda. He intoned, “I must say, Liz, your red face and green slacks were most appropriate for the season. Merry Christmas to all.”

Once again, laughter swept through the room. We merrily traipsed out with lit candles to sing Christmas carols in the dark outside the building.

The cricket was nowhere to be seen.

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