There was a pastor who served a congregation in rural Iowa. He was a pastor who enjoyed wearing elaborate robes. He placed heavy importance on the physical ritual of the liturgy and on sacred objects.
The Iowa farm families who worshipped in this congregation were a little more simple. They enjoyed the pastor and his enthusiasm for the sacredness of the liturgy. But, they placed a heavier emphasis on relationships and sermons that spoke to their life.
One day, the church council decided to fund a project dear to the pastor’s heart. They agreed to purchase a very expensive, hand-stitched altar cloth and clergy robe from an exceptional German company. It was more an expression of appreciation than a critical move in mission.
Excitement filled the sanctuary as the pastor led worship with the new apparel. Great care was taken in every movement. The congregation could feel the joy and appreciation in every word the pastor spoke. Then tragedy struck.
As he lifted his arms to speak the words of institution over the communion elements, his arm hit the chalice. It tipped over the chalice and spilled red wine over all the expensive new white material. Then, in a scene out of the movie, “A Christmas Story,” the pastor spoke very audibly into the microphone the queen mother of all swear words.
This morning Jesus chastises the scribes and pharisees, “You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred?” It made me think of this story. While the story always gives me a good laugh, it also leads me to look within myself. Where do I put more emphasis on an object than the God who made the object sacred? It’s a question worth asking yourself. You might find new life in your answer. (Mt 23: 13-17)