Sanctuary

Dave Smith

The vacuum hums its usual drone, a monotoned monotony accompanying usual mind roams.  As always, I begin at the pulpit side of the altar since the nearby choir wall offers the most functional outlet.  Communion bread crumbs scatter about, a fleck here and a bit there, and reflections travel to the journey of grace and the gift of true hope.  Between the pews challenges no matter how many times I push through.  The vacuum head clonks a pew leg, fails to fit between two that somehow are perfectly aligned to malign my tasks.  Always a something or another refuses suction and the book racks offer a variety of surprises.  In Lutheran tradition, each row has an “owner”, a regular that sits just here and another exactly right there.  I think of a long ago funeral of a beloved founding family at my home church, a husband and wife taken in a terrible auto accident on Highway 51.  They were close with my parents, regulars for card club each month, and farm life friends.  Pastor’s remarks began with, “Right there, they always sat right there….” as he began the eulogy.  I, too, see the faces as I move, those who are always right here where I clean, or just over there, or back there.  I laugh a little recalling the consternation of “someone in my seat” looks in fuller attendance, holiday services.  Little spots of wax I am remiss in not yet removing bring the joy of Christmas services, the special emotions of Silent Night that make me struggle with tears.  I’m glad someone will help with the stained glass this year.  I know time has passed quickly with little cleaning way up there, up there where the Biblical journey artfully traverses beyond my reach – colorfully portrays a loving God’s creation, His angers, and His gracious love.

The motor quiets, the Sanctuary settles back to the peace it holds for me, for us.  While sitting in the front pew, I wrap the cord and chat a little with my Lord.  It’s a good minute, a kind time when I know the touch of Spirit that accompanies me when I work here.  John Donne once wrote about poking into “the nooks and crannies of life” and I am so grateful that in those places I find words to accompany the music of God in my life.  Echoes live here, here in the high arch of the ceiling and bouncing from oak beam to oak beam.  They live in the shadows, those spots that should have a light and sometimes require a hesitant step.  They live in the worn carpet, carpet trod by many pastors and many more saints that knelt at the rail of forgiveness.  They caress the chimes and sneak about the piano and organ, drift up to that stained glass, and gently settle into the ever lit candle, that Light of Life aflame in our church home.   How that trumpet blares on Christmas Eve and how rugged our cross looks at Easter.

I walk the main aisle, push out the doors to end this work time for today.  I hum some silly monotone of melody from the Christy Minstrels “Company of Cowards” album.  My step light and happy, I mark the time card and stow the machine.  I clonk my noggin on a shelf for no known reason to mankind and the ensuing “ohgoshgollygeedagnabbitshouldn’tadonethatshuckydarns” reminds me of my human nature and I have to laugh, just laugh.  How quickly such piety disappears with the stroke of Satan’s invading thoughts when discomfort strikes.  Pastor taught me a way to handle that today.  She reflected on an old Bob Newhart show in which he played a psychiatrist.  The story is hers to tell, but application of the thought I share with spoiler alert.  Sometimes we need to tell that devil of verbiage to just “stop it.”  My hum silenced, I ease outside, feel the fresh breeze of no humidity, inhale summer – thanks be to God.

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