The Girl in the Rainbow Tights
Ashley Crowder Stanley, Pastor
After it happened, my friend Steve said: “you couldn’t have scripted it better if you’d tried.” And he was right.
A few weeks ago, about 5 minutes into my sermon, I was telling the story of a fancy, high steeple church in another city that had pulled up the front 4 pews in its historic sanctuary and set up an area for children complete with colorful rug, little tables and chairs, crayons, quiet toys; a welcoming space. And, as a result, that church had experienced an inspiring rise in the presence of children and their young parents in worship.
As I went on, a light gust of wind (we worship outside right now) blew my sermon notes off the music stand and onto the floor and they skittered around, randomly. Forgetting I was mic’d, I mumbled (but didn’t audibly curse): “oh, this is my worst nightmare…well, maybe not my worst nightmare but pretty bad…” As I gathered up the notes, I tried to remember where I was in this less-than-stellar sermon opening.
That’s when she walked in: the girl with the rainbow tights. And white patent leather pumps. And frilly dress. With her mom. They walked in right as I was saying something about Jesus picking up a child and bringing him into the center of the circle of stodgy disciples, boldly including children and giving them a place of honor.
The child and her mom found seats on the front row. I welcomed them while trying not to embarrass them by being too goofily effusive. Meanwhile, several wonderful people got up, scurried around for crayons and paper, pulling out one of the little chairs at the children’s art table so she could join the other children who were already deep into their activity.
Sometimes, sermons are carefully crafted in advance with a message that hopefully connects to heart and mind. And sometimes, sermons walk in late, wearing rainbow tights, holding their mom’s hand, choosing to sit up close to “could hear what that lady is saying.”
I hope she heard “welcome.” And “grace.” And “it doesn’t matter that you were late, we are glad you’re here and there is a place for you.” And “Jesus loves you.” Those are the words that matter. Those are the words that will last, long after she outgrows those spectacular rainbow tights!
Beware of the light gusts of wind: your “scripts” may end up on the floor just in time to make room for God’s unforgettable script whose message may not involve words at all.