Kent Bush | @KentBush
Nothing makes adults at church squirm more than hearing a pastor tell them to turn to Malachi 3:9-10 ("You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." As soon as they hear it, they know the collection plate has been a little light lately and it is time to hear the tithing message.
But as a 10-year-old, the Malachi sermon never scared me. My tithe was a quarter and dad gave it to me on the way to church. That’s a good deal and if we could figure out a way to do it as adults, tithing would be a lot easier.
But as a kid, I can tell you I knew about stress at church. It wasn’t tithing. It was that Sunday night service when you walked in and saw something stacked on the table up front with a sheet draped over it.
You knew immediately that it was either the instruments of communion or the dead body of a man who lost a death match to become the Chairman of Deacons at the 4 p.m. meeting as first seen in 1 Kings 2:9 ("Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.")
Most often it was the communion plates.
I know what you are thinking. Why are you scared of wine and wafers? Wine and wafers sounds like a fun Sunday night. Actually it was just grape juice and the driest cracker ever cracked in our church.
I was so nervous when I saw that tray with the tiny juice cups in the tiny holes coming my way. I never wanted to be the one who dropped it and spilled grape juice on the 1970s orange carpet.
In 45 years, I don’t think I have ever seen the tray dropped, but the fear was real. I know part of the reason I was nervous was that my mom was the organist and it would embarrass her. It might not embarrass her as much as the time my older brother practiced his head stand on the front pew of the church, but it would embarrass her. (There are still people alive who can recall my brother’s immediate re-positioning into proper Southern Baptist posture when my mother simply snapped her fingers. Her snaps are legendary.)
I don’t know why I was so worried about it because my father was the janitor for the church so if anyone was going to clean up a mess I made, it would probably have been me. But still, the mental image of that plate toppling out of my hands was life altering.
As I grew older, I learned to control my communion calmness.
But when I moved to Kansas, the church there used a communion style where you have to pinch off a piece of bread and dip it in another deacon’s juice cup. You can’t imagine how disgusting that is to me. Everyone else seemed fine with it and I was like, “Oh good, wet bread with Charlie’s finger goo mixed in with the juice.”
That, my friend, is a recipe for disaster.
Give me a communion catastrophe over a nasty au jus bread crumb stew anytime.
I know you probably think less of me now that I shared my secret that instead of focusing on the tenets of one of the most holy sacraments in the church, I was battling inner demons.
But that’s okay by me. Because I know that out there somewhere is a little kid (or big adult) feeling the same way and maybe this column can make you smile through the pain next time the tray comes your way.
Just don’t stand on your head in church. That is almost never acceptable.
Kent Bush is the Publisher of the Shawnee News-Star and a nationally distributed columnist through GateHouse Media's More Content Now news service. He writes about 150 columns a year. Some of them are funny. Sometimes that is on purpose. You can follow him on Twitter at @KentBush.