Sunday, November 16, 2008

Open Door Policy or Will and the Kingdom

When my grandson ( or one of them) was four (he's five now), he wanted to come see my church, "with no one there."
"It's the one where you get all dressed up on Sunday and give us bread," he says. I tell him he can come on Sunday, but he wants a private tour. So we go.
Will, always speedy with words and legs, runs in ahead of me and heads for the sacristy. "This is your special closet, Grammy," he says. The sacristy is where clergy, acolytes and other servers at the altar don robes for the service. Will wants to see all the scarves. He means stoles, long narrow, colorful strips of fabric clergy wear over their shoulders. Will wraps himself round and round in stoles—red, green, white, blue, paisley and more and asks me to open the door, "Grammy's secret entrance," that leads into the sanctuary. He hops up one step and into the high altar area, which in ancient temples used to be called the "holy of holies."
What happens next surprises me. I listen for Will's speed run around the altar area but hear nothing. Silence. Has he fallen? I go to see and find Will standing still, staring up at the reredos, the wooden carving that fits over the altar, an altar we no longer use. In our day it doesn't make sense to invite people to a holy meal in Godde's name and not allow them to gather round the dining table.
Will is still. His widening brown eyes roam the sculpture: a large wooden crucifix surrounded by niches in which stand Jesus' many followers stand, some looking straight out at us and a few, including Jesus' mother Mary, looking up at Jesus. I worry Will will be frightened by the image. Then I half expect him to drop to his knees and wonder if he has a vocational calling.
"Grammy, look," he finally says.
I look.
"Look. Look," he pulls my hand and walks me back and forth tracing the rows of niches with his finger. He see something wondrous. His eyes are alive with light. I wait.
"There are no doors," he says. "There's no doors."
Will is not at all interested in Jesus and has no questions about what must be an odd image to him. It is the array of saints in their doorless rooms that mesmerizes Will. I know he is learning about time-outs, and I know he is able to turn his temper around fast, repent and begin over, as long as his parents leave the door to his time-out room open.
No closed doors.
Before I can hug him he's off, dashing down the aisle, then hurtling his tiny body as fast as it will go in and out among rows of pews down one side and up the other and back again shouting to me, "Watch this. Watch this."
I watch. I clap. I think to myself that Jesus' wisdom about children was right: " It is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs." (Mark 10:13)