Tori and I walked into the nave. A stand holding laminated cards which chronicled the history of the church blocked the center of the aisle. We each took one, then began reading and searching out the details described in the literature. After a few moments, I whispered to Tori that I wanted to move deeper into the sanctuary and sit in a pew.
As we sat, I lowered the kneeler to begin my reflection with prayer, confession of conflicted thoughts, request for help, and thanks for my sunshine-daughter-in-law. I replaced the kneeler and leaned back into the pew to prayerfully ponder.
I had attended this church several times on holy days, when my home church didn’t offer a service, and I relished basking in the voluminous space with striking architectural features, frescoes and stained glass. The colors seemed muted today, because the interior was brighter than usual. I searched for the source and realized the the doors propped open to welcome tourists allowed the sun in as well.
Irritated, I concentrated on the domed ceiling sparkling with golden stars but was distracted by two women hollering back and forth from opposite sides of the room in front of the altar. They were arranging bell-choir tables. A man stood at the lectionary, presumably mentally practicing his reading of the lessons. Behind us, a group of tourists bumping elbows and laughing, barged in through the sunlit doors. The movements and noise disturbed my peace. I was miffed.
“It’s not usually so loud in here,” I stage-whispered to Tori.
“Excuse me, would you like to see the chapel?”
A woman stood at the end of the pew, her head cocked at an angle.
I looked to Tori and she shrugged and nodded. I turned back to the woman. “Sure. I’ve never seen the chapel. I didn’t know you had one.”
She led us through the sanctuary into a small hallway where a an iron latticed door barred a small chapel. The woman pushed open the door.
“Good, it’s unlocked. Come on in. I thought you might enjoy this sweet space. Most of the people who visit on Saturdays don’t read the literature. They take a few pictures and walk back out, but you seemed to be more interested.”
Inwardly, I smiled. Yes, Tori and I were not part of the tourist gaggles. We came to appreciate the beauty and to worship. The lady continued, “We use the chapel for select groups, such as a private baptism or small group study.”
I silently questioned her statement. Don’t people request a baptism on their or their child’s behalf to publicly declare belief in Christ and to be received into the fellowship of the church? A baptism should have the members of the body of Christ present to witness the profession and to welcome the new member.
The woman went on to describe the architectural features of the small room. “I love this little chapel,” she smiled. “I love this church, especially it being a working church. Right now, they’re preparing for a bell concert in tomorrow’s service. Everybody’s busy doing their part.”
Her words dove into my heart. Indeed, the two women were setting up tables and the man at the lectionary was rehearsing. The church was alive with members using their gifts and sharing their home with visitors, while I sat in the pew pouting that I could not approach God in solitude. Then, when the woman detected my dismay, she shared the chapel, a refuge set apart, and I railed that people tried to live their Christian lives independent of the rest of the church.
That dear woman was God’s instrument to reveal my hypocrisy. I left the church building full of a healthy helping of humble pie. Thank you, LORD, for not letting me be ignorant of the lettuce in my teeth, the arrogance I didn’t see in the mirror but was evident to others.
The woman who ushered us into the chapel treated me with grace. I determine to be gracious like her when my brothers and sisters fall. I want to ease the swallowing of humble pie.
Just a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Mary Poppins