March 07, 2005

Representatives of God's Love

I spent most of today substitute teaching at the high school. I've been doing that for about two years now, and I love it that I know so many of the kids. It's not that hard to get to know them when there's only 300 of them in the whole school.

Some of the kids I knew even before I started teaching. Some of them attend youth group at church. Samurai is one of them. So is the teenage girl who works in our church nursery. I had them both in class today.

Sometimes I enjoy the brief moment of awkwardness that arises when they try to figure out what to call me. The girl who works in our nursery raised her hand in class, and when I called on her, she said, "Pastor Da--uh, I mean,... Mr. Bradfield?" I told her it's OK, she doesn't have to call me something different just because we're at school. So many of the other kids, including so many who don't go to church, call me Pastor Danny. It's not what I tell them to call me. I wouldn't insist on that title, especially not in a public school. But they seem to like it.

I think part of the reason is that even the ones who don't go to church like knowing that there is someone around who can represent to them God and God's love. Five years ago, when I first arrived in this community, one of the first phone calls I received was a request to come down to the high school campus because a freshman had just committed suicide, and maybe some of the students would like to talk to a pastor. Being brand new to the community at the time, I didn't know anyone, but I spent the whole day on campus; however, no one took up the administration's invitation to talk to the clergyperson. I left thinking that my day had been wasted.

A week later, I was talking with one of our church members who also teaches at the high school, and she told me how meaningful it was to some of the students that I was there. "But I didn't do anything," I said. "No one wanted to talk."

She replied, "But you were there. That made all the difference."

So, over the years, I've discovered what an amazing and awesome task it is to simply represent God to one's community. And it's not a task reserved solely for pastors. This past Saturday, following the funeral, several of the women from the church took it upon themselves to organize the food for the reception. It was a big funeral, with lots of the deceased's out-of-town relatives present.

At one point, one of the relatives went up to the women from the church and asked, "Are you the church ladies?" The women, with images of Dana Carvey in their heads, laughed. Then they thought about it, and answered proudly, "Yes! Yes, we are. We are the church ladies."

I think the question made them think a little about the work they were really doing. It made them realize that the simple task of organizing food for a reception was holy work. It made them realize that in taking on this work, they had become representatives of God's love.

1 comment:

Michael said...

"But you were there. That made all the difference."

Sometimes all it takes is one line, one word, to change everything.

I really enjoyed.

Take Care