On Sunday mornings, I typically arrive at church about an hour before worship to get organized and spend some time praying in the sanctuary before others arrive. I review the bulletin, make notes for announcements, mark the pulpit Bible so it is ready for the Scripture readings, and check in with Joanne, the organist, about any last minute details. Last Sunday, I arrived at my usual time, but before setting my sermon and bulletin up on the pulpit, I decided to get the Communion elements ready. Joanne was not there yet and I was praying and mentally preparing for the day “in my own little world.” When she arrived we chatted for a few minutes, and then I set off to get everything in place for worship. As I turned toward the pulpit, I gasped at the sight of paper shreds strewn all over the paraments. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What was going on? At Smithville we have a very nice, large-print NRSV pulpit Bible. Like any large hard-cover book, when it is open, a “tunnel” is created in the spine area between the two sides of the text. Apparently a mouse thought that “tunnel” was a great place to build a nest for her babies. A mouse was nesting in the Word of God! I must say that my immediate reaction was not a theological one. I was pretty freaked out by this and was glad that Joanne was there. My congregation has heard stories of my experiences with rodents when I was teaching in the inner city and they are quite aware of my desire to keep a healthy distance in my relationship with such long-tailed creatures. God bless Joanne – she took care of the mess while I settled back into a normal breathing pattern and pondered the wisdom of God’s creation. J
In the days since that event, though, I have done some theological reflection on the image of nesting and resting in the Word of God. Is there a better place to build one’s home? What a place to nurture oneself (and one’s children) in the promise of God’s love and provision – a place of peace and rest.
I was sharing this story with some of my seminary colleagues and professors at lunch the other day and we all had a good laugh! Dr. Lattimore suggested I write about this incident in a manner much like Clement Clarke Moore’s classic work “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” And so I close today with that poem. Until next time, peace …
‘Twas the first week of Lent and all through God’s house,
not a creature was stirring; only a mouse.
Her name could be Mary, like Jesus’ mother,
but unlike Mary, she soon would discover
there’s room at the inn, yes, haven’t you heard
the place for deliv’ry is God’s Holy Word?
She nested and built her own little manger
in the spine of that Book, but oh what a danger
those humans became when they found her sweet crèche.
They thought her dear home was such a big mess!
Her abode was removed; she now lives in Exile,
The trash heap out back is her new domicile.
This story has ended and you should recall
that there wasn’t a room at the inn after all!