The late Marcus Borg, a well known New Testament scholar and theologian, once wrote that American Indians would often begin a story by saying: “Now I’m not sure all of this happened this way, but I know it is all true.”
“The Story of the Man Born Blind” in the Gospel of John is the story of a community cast aside. They were thrown out: unseen, unheard, unwanted. They were rejected by those whom they loved; and who they thought loved them in return.
Our world is always changing, and yet we hang on to our old traditions and ways of seeing and doing things. We just sort of muddle along: usually (but not always) aware of these changes happening all around us. It often takes a crisis for us to fully appreciate how things have changed: that the old ways no longer work; that we must adapt.
As you may know, my father was a Minister, too. And, it’s both humbling and surprising to find myself standing here nearly 60 years after he entered Seminary, a Minister myself. It was not a career I had any wish or plan to pursue – ever!
But, things change…
Some of my earliest memories are of my Father leading a worship service. I particularly remember his voice booming out over the congregation as we sang hymns. But, I have no memory of this from when I was older!
When I asked him about this a few years ago, he told me the following story. You see, he was called to the church (that I first remember him in) when I was about 3. On Sundays, he’d sing from the pulpit as he’d always done in his other churches. But, in this new church something was different, something that he did not realize mattered.
His previous churches had no audio system. So, singing from the pulpit had never been an issue, he’d never thought about it. And, he didn’t think about it in the new Church either, because the speakers pointed towards the congregation, not towards him. He didn’t hear what everyone else heard.
As a three year old, I had no idea that hearing the preacher sing so LOUDLY was not normal. To me, that was just the way things were, and should be. My perspective was never challenged until that moment in my late 40’s when my Father told me how “Pony” Felch, the church moderator, took him aside one day. Then, in his wonderful old Vermont twang he said, “You know Reverend, we really appreciate your singing. But, the next time you sing a hymn from the pulpit, take a step or two back!”