Wednesday, June 4, 2008

IT’S SUMMER TIME – (a little misunderstanding)


I was in church on Sunday and the message was one of those I can still remember today. It’s Wednesday. How many hundreds of sermons have I heard? Thousands? And how many are forgotten – instantly. That’s not an indictment on the preacher but more on my inability to pay attention and apply what has been said to my spirit.

The message was all about communion and, in particular, the table – what the table says.

You may know that I’ve been to church a lot - all my life - so far. In my childhood days, we were regular in our church attendance on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday night prayer services and, well, any other day or night when something might be going on at the church. It was the spiritual center of activity and, for the most part, the social center as well. Much of my life revolved around what went on at church.

I’m not sure how often we came to the table for the Lord’s supper. We actually never really came to the table – it came to us. The elements were solemnly distributed by the deacons of the church.

The deacons were a powerful bunch of men. Most of them, well, all of them now that I think of it, were southern gentlemen held in high regard in our little town. One of them was my father. They took their responsibilities seriously and carried out the duties with quiet reverence and dignity. I knew and could see what most of those duties were but until I was a teenager, I was certain that one of the duties of a deacon at the little Baptist church was to stand out on the front steps and smoke cigarettes. Most of them faithfully offered up that sacrifice just as regularly as any of their other duties, then came in and took up the offering and served communion. There was no conflict as far as I knew.

Of course, the bread and the wine were mysterious elements to me as a child. I was perplexed how a church that so vehemently preached temperance and total abstinence from alcohol could run the “bread and wine” service without the wrath of God or at least the Southern Baptist Convention. (I was always a little suspicious though and wondered just went on in the privacy of some of the homes around town. There was probably some medicinal application going on and I heard all the jokes – “Why do you always take two Baptist fishing with you? Because if you take just one, he’ll drink all your beer.”)

The deacons would pass the plates filled with tiny pillow-looking shapes of some kind of bread product although it wouldn’t pass for bread anywhere else outside the church. Then the trays would pass with small glass cups filled with grape juice – probably Welch’s. Certainly not real wine. It was a very quiet and reverent affair. And one everyone took to heart – rightfully so.


The pastor on this Sunday just past said the table always has something to say. He described the table communicating words of comfort – of invitation.

He explained that someone had done a survey of some kind and come up with a list of the most comforting words people can hear. In first place, “I Love You.” In second place, “I forgive you” and in third, “It’s summertime.”

Or at least, that’s what I understood him to say from my seat in the balcony.

I wrote Jim an email on Monday and expressed how moving and meaningful the message was to me. I mean, who wouldn’t agree that those three lines are great things to hear. Who isn’t softened by the words “I love you”? We all want to be loved and when someone actually goes to the trouble to take a breath and form those sweet tones and direct them at our ears – well, it’s just spectacular and makes any day better. And “I forgive you?” Cleansing, healing, redeeming words.

“It’s summertime.” When he said that, it took me back to my childhood and the last day of school on any given year between first grade and my senior year. What great words! “It’s summertime” meant that, for three whole months, there was no homework, no studying, no assignments; just baseball, sleeping late, going barefoot,fishing and going on vacation. I remember that feeling of hearing the final bell ring, the bell that signaled the end of the last day of school. There were few things that matched the euphoria for a school boy.

Jim responded to my email. After some other comments, his email finished with “Incidentally, I said “It’s suppertime, not summertime.” Oh. Right.

That does make more sense. “It’s suppertime” is a great thing to hear, too.

I still have difficulty calling the evening meal, dinner. Seems a little pretentious to a small town boy. Dinner used to be at noon with supper coming in the evening. When I talk to my mom and the subject of food comes up, we still fail to communicate from time to time with the often misplaced “dinner” designation.

Me: So what are you having for dinner?

Mom: I already had dinner. You mean supper?

Sigh.


It’s suppertime calls the family together to share a meal and anything else that needs to be shared from the events of the day. It does say that it’s time to eat, time to dine, time to be nourished. Yeah, that does make more sense from the table of the Lord. The bread and the cup reminds us of the sacrifice that brought about real forgiveness, and hope of a new beginning – refreshment to the spirit. Volumes have been written by brilliant scholars about the deep meaning of the sacraments. I won’t try to wax eloquent here.

So, it was just a little misunderstanding. Suppertime – not summertime. So, I got the meaning and a bonus.


He loves.

He forgives.

It’s getting warmer.

It’s suppertime.

Come and eat.

3 comments:

Desire of all Nations said...

Just a note to tell you that I was recently listing to your Signatures Album _Friend of a Wounded Heart. I have served as a missionary for 18 years from Bosnia during the war to Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea and many other troubled spots of the world. Coming back from Kenya with a team during the recent violence I was diagnosed with a severe case of PTSD. For four months I have been in the darkest valley of my Christian life. My mind, emotions, everything just shutting down. My Itunes counter shows that I have played your song 35 times. It is more than that as often as I sit here I wont let it end but start from the beginning again. Wayne, that song has been like dew from Hermon or Oil running down Aaron's beard. In the deepest brokenness I have ever felt you music has been poultice to my soul. Thanks Brother
Kevin Turner

Anonymous said...

Kevin,

We'll be in prayer for you. God is bigger than this.

Jamie

John Johnson said...

Wayne,

I was browsing through the Christian bookstore this week, looking for musical or written treasures. It is something I used to do a lot when I was younger. Now I am gray-headed with teenagers in the home, and don't drop by the bookstores as often.

While I was there I pulled a handful of CDs off the shelf, and my wife mentioned your latest CD, "Even This". Needless to say, I ended up opting out of the stack of CDs, and bought yours (gray hair and all). I have most of your works, and "Even This" is one of your finest. The vocals and music are as good as ever. The CD provides me moments of worship and gives me many things to ponder.

Thanks for the songs over the years. I first heard your music when I was in USAF Basic Training in 1982, and have been encouraged many times over the years through it.

Blessings,

JJ