I spent two days interviewing Methodist ministers. In the Methodist church, while God might call them to ministry, our Board of Ordained Ministry credentials them. On a regular basis these ministers in the process toward ordination appear before various committees to talk about their ministry. I can give you a list of the really good ones who appeared before our committee. The other folks were “coming along” and we could see improvement. So what do you do after listening to the third minister of the afternoon?
I confess that I glazed over and my mind wandered. I made a list of all the things I needed to get done. I thought through the supper menu for the week. I made vacation plans for the future. Now I know what is going on in your head when you get that far away look on Sunday morning! This interview adventure reminded me to shorten my sermons! If you are looking for a short sermon, I will have one for you this Sunday.
One of the thoughts I had was a memory.
Our eldest child, Allison is an attorney in Baton Rouge. I have lost every argument with her since she was in the ninth grade. We have kept all of her “Memos to my Parents.” To the extent possible, she breezed through law school and passed the bar a week after we took a Caribbean cruise. I can tell you she was not studying on the cruise. She does some kind of real estate law that I really don’t understand but it is second nature to her. She is a very gifted young lady.
When she was in elementary school we took Allison to be tested for those “gifted classes.” Allison was a very smart child and wanted her to have the best education possible. We knew almost immediately that Allison did not pass the gifted student test. As with most failed testing experiences it boiled down to one question. The question the kept Allison from entering a gifted program was, “What is the purpose of a postage stamp?” Allison answered, “The purpose of a postage stamp is to decorate the envelope.”
I think that was a good third grade answer, albeit an incorrect answer. It kept her out of the gifted program. But it seems that even as an attorney, Allison approaches some legal matters in unique ways.
I wonder how a third grader would answer the stamp question today. I’m not sure many of them would grasp the concept of an envelope. They would inform you that email requires no envelope, thus the decorative stamp would be superfluous. We would look silly asking the question in the first place. As our culture changes traditions we understand are mysterious to our children and grandchildren.
We are entering the holiday season where traditions abound. Some of our traditions are solemn and holy. Some of our traditions are just plain silly and no one has called us on them. Whatever your tradition, have you shared the story with your family? Do they know the why behind the what? Do you?
The church is entering our great story telling time. It is the story of the Creator of the universe being born in a barn with teenagers for parents. You could not make up a stranger story if you tried. It is the story of one named Jesus who came down to lift us up. I thought I should remind you before you started unpacking your holiday traditions.