The Smiling Heretic's Blog

Pentecost 14 :: "You have made them equal to us..."

2011 Scotland Trip 96

Doesn’t it just make you crazy when some young whippersnapper know-it-all comes in and steals all your thunder?

I remember Brett [not his real name] from back in High School. He was a ninth-grader; I was a senior. He played trombone; I played trombone. He was good; I was better—or so I thought! I remember when he challenged me for first chair. [A “challenge” was when someone sitting in a lower position than you tries to take over your spot. It was a way to get students to practice more and get better. You’d better practice, because if you didn’t, someone could come and win your seat.]

Anyway. Brett challenged me one week early in the Fall semester. I was sure to win. After all, I’d been playing trombone for seven years and he’d only been at it for three. I was an All-State performer; he’d never made it past regional tryouts. I’d show him who’s boss!

Pentecost 12 :: "If your brother sins against you..."

2011 Scotland Trip 50

I remember an office visit by a parishioner many years ago when I first came out of seminary. The woman sat in an easy chair opposite me. Her words were blunt: “You’ve hurt me very much.”

Immediately I felt the weight of my body triple [is this what it means to be weighed down by sin?] as she explained what I had done. Apparently I said something or did something [or didn’t say or do something] to her that she took as a grave offense. It matters not what I did or did not say or do: the fact is that this hurt her very deeply. I just sat there listening to her and feeling like a little child being scolded by a teacher for putting bubblegum in a classmate’s hair. I felt small. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed.

My feelings, though, were as a puff of wind compared to the sense of hurt, betrayal, and disappointment this woman felt by my actions. What courage she must have had to confront me in this way. What determination! She wasn’t angry. She didn’t call me names. Goodness knows she didn’t hit me [and by all fairness, she probably would’ve been justified if she had!]. What she did was point out my sin, her feelings about that, and what she wanted from me. Here she was risking a relationship with her priest, treating me as an adult, and confronting me about my sin. What a tremendous gift to me that was. But what an even greater gift that was to herself! She unburdened herself about my actions in the absolute best way—by talking to me directly.

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