There were five of us on the second row at Highland yesterday: Anna Claire, Nicholas, and me - three of the usual suspects. Playing the role of Amy and Andrew, who were home because of Andrew's slight fever, were Anna Claire's two new nutcrackers (one of each gender to maintain the appropriate family ratio).
Once Anna Claire departed for children's church, Nicholas and I were left to ponder the great mysteries of the sacraments and corporate worship. I think we broke new ground, if not wind.
As we partook of the bread, we discussed Christ's body and how interesting it was to consider the condition of that body on Christmas day versus Good Friday. Nicholas noted that even though Jesus was a baby on Christmas, that wasn't the first time he'd come to exist. He'd been alive forever. Apparently, the second grade class has graduated past the felt board story of Noah's Ark.
When we shared the cup, I told Nicholas there was blood at Christmas, too, as Christ was being born because birth is such a difficult and painful experience for the mother and the child. He explained that babies emerge from mommies in the same general area as the place where "men have penises." I confirmed his declaration and dabbed my eyes as I imagined how many other Christ-followers throughout history have had such discussions around the Lord's table. (Answer: none.)
Soon, Jerry Taylor made his way to the stage to preach in place of Rev. Cope, who apparently was too busy blogging this week to whip up a sermon for his needy flock. For those who've never seen him 'til now, Taylor is big, black, and baritone. A formidable orator, he's striking a blow against the idea that a mostly-white church can't have a totally-black minister.
Sometime last year, the boys and I were talking football as we drove home from something or other. (You must admit, this is a compelling story so far. Lots of details and vivid imagery.) We decided Marvin Harrison was the best receiver in the NFL right now. I then said, "There's not really any debate over who the best receiver of all time is." And then to jog their memories, I said, "Jerry..." I, of course, was referring to Rice, but Nicholas blurted, "Taylor!" We howled the whole way home at the thought of our associate pastor running corner routes.
I told Jerry Taylor that story the next Sunday, and he laughed until he cried. Nicholas even drew a picture in church a couple of weeks later of a football player reaching the end zone and the announcer saying, "Touchdown, Jerry Taylor!" So when Jerry stepped into the pulpit yesterday, I whispered in jest, "There's the greatest wide receiver in NFL history," to which Nicholas replied matter-of-factly, "Well, he is black."
Strange as it may seem, that remark gives me hope. Just as I was encouraged when Andrew told me as we watched To Kill a Mockingbird Saturday that he'd never 'til then heard the "n" word. (That's also encouraging because it means he didn't sneak off to LA a couple of weekends ago to hear Michael Richards' stand-up routine at The Laugh Factory.)
To Nicholas, the color of the Jerrys' skin is only significant as a point of similarity between the two men. Kind of like when he observes that Andrew is the only one in our family with blue eyes. I know some believe Utopia comes when we no longer notice our differences. That may be. In the meantime, I'll settle for the recognition of differences so long as they're celebrated.
Finally, as church was ending, my phone vibrated with a text message. Nicholas, who was on my lap at the time, looked at me quizzically, then realized what it was and said, "That felt like an electric toot." Electric toots and Highland's auditorium have one thing in common: no pew.
It was more high comedy than high church. But I cherished the chance to worship a Heavenly Father with my earthly son.