I would like to take the opportunity to share with you the most special verse in the Bible for me. I heard it again last Sunday (as it was part of last week’s lectionary readings).
The reason this verse is so special is that it was given to me by my pastors on the day of my "Confirmation" 40 years ago. This was the verse my pastors selected especially for me.
It was in the middle of the “Confirmation Worship Service” in mid-May 1974 that our class stood in a line before the congregation and publicly renewed (i.e. confirmed) the faith vows made on our behalf at our baptism (when we were but infants). We then turned toward the altar, kneeled, and my pastors went down the line placing their hands on each confirmand’s head, offering a blessing and giving each their specially selected verse. When I heard 1 Peter 2:9 recited over me -- all about being royal, called by God, especially holy, pulled out of the darkness and drawn into the light for divine and mighty purposes -- I remember thinking, “Wow, it is so impressive that this is the verse I’ve been given! The pastors must think I have great potential for global leadership!"
(I have subsequently realized the pastors chose the first couple of chapters of 1 Peter to use as their blessing material for that year’s confirmation class, and they'd taken whatever was the next verse as the “special verse” for whomever was next for a blessing. I happened to come along at 2:9....)
But no matter; to hear this verse as the one given to bless me at this point in my life meant more than words could say. I was 15 and had had such a tough time of adolescence up to this point. I was pimply, fat, lonely, mocked, in a state of constant fighting with my parents. Yes, this was the laundry list of things just about everyone goes through at that age. But, in addition, I had the additional impediment of having to go through all of this in the 1970’s, which meant having to get through all of that tough stuff in … those clothes.
Let's face it, there's nothing uglier than clothes from the 70’s. Case in point, the special outfit I’d chosen to wear on Confirmation Day was an awful double-knit polyester dress the color of...I can only describe it as "pus yellow." It awkwardly fit around my hips making them look enormous. (I nevertheless think at the time I found this outfit attractive.) Fortunately, my ¾-length white Confirmation robe covered it up. What wasn't covered up, however, were my shoes: giant patent leather white platform heel pumps (which my mother said were ridiculous to wear to church; of course this impelled me to want wear them even more). I looked like I planned to head off to the disco after the service, before going out to save the world.
As my two pastors blessed my head and read my verse, it felt like I was being anointed. I viscerally felt those amazing, complementary words of 1 Peter were dripping like oil down my head and onto my shoulders. I felt so honored, elevated, vindicated, empowered to forget the past and power into the marvelous future! I stood up enthusiastically ready to full-speed-ahead accomplish God’s mission!!
Then, one of the big clunky heels of my platform shoes got caught in the hem of my ¾-length robe, yanking me backwards, choking me, and causing me to start clumping around the front of the sanctuary in those ungainly shoes – sort of like Frankenstein – trying not to fall. I believe I heard the congregation gasp. Thankfully, I didn’t tip over. I just turned beet-red and quickly slunk to back to my pew thinking, “So much for royal priesthood and visions of grandeur.”
One of the things I most love about that verse, and my embarrassing, hilarious experience with it, is it reminds me there are all sorts of ways we proclaim God’s mighty acts and bring them into “his marvelous light.”
I was so ready and was quite sure this was the time God was inviting me to show the world my beauty, capability, and grace (hopelessly horrible 1970’s fashions notwithstanding). Instead, I tripped. That's what the world got to see...
...as well as witness the fact that something prevented me from falling and maybe even breaking my neck -- you might call it Divine Grace. I somehow avoided serious injury (although the laws of gravity dictated it and my own hurt, stubborn willfulness subjected me to it). Wow!
This is the scenario that is repeated over and over and over again in the Bible. God, for whatever reason – love – gives us second chance after second chance, when really we all should just be done in.
This is also the classic scenario of comedy. The quintessential example is the man slipping on a banana peel who doesn’t break his neck (as he should) but instead for some strange and gracious reason gets up and moves on, with but a bruised ego.
I love remembering how I tripped and was truly “saved by grace”, on the day I confirmed my faith. It reminds me - and I got to remind others then, and get to now (!) -- that the faith we vow at our baptism is filled with comic grace and opportunities to laugh at our silly selves and laugh with the amazing opportunities to try again we are endlessly given, more than we ever acknowledge.
No matter who we are….