Did I ever tell you about Vaudie? No? Well, Vaudie (that’s not her real name; I changed it to protect the guilty) was a most unusual person.
When I first met her, she was in her 80s. She had gone through the troubles and tragedies of life common to most of us, from the loss of a husband to problems with children, grandchildren, etc. She passed away at over 100 years old. Imagine touching three centuries with your life! She did — her gravestone reads: born 1899, died 2002.
But I stray from what I wanted to tell you about Vaudie. She was a most faithful member of my congregation. If the church doors were open, she was there. Cheerful, always possessing a good word. As she got older — in her 90s — I would recognize her on the Sunday closest to her birthday, ask her to stand so the congregation could see her, both those in the sanctuary and those who were worshipping with us by television.
Well, she gradually began to respond to my birthday congratulations with longer and longer speeches, standing there in her pew. I suppose some folks felt it was a bit inappropriate, the service being televised and all. But I felt that anyone who was creeping up on a century of life had earned the privilege of speaking her mind.
But again I stray. During one of those years in her nineties, something happened to her in church that always brings a smile when I remember Vaudie.
One of her great-granddaughters, a preschooler, was attending church regularly with her mother. Sometimes the child would sit with her great-grandmother and sometimes she would sit way in the back of the sanctuary with her mother.
Well, on this particular Sunday she was sitting with Vaudie about three or four pews from the front. I had just finished the children’s sermon and had sent the children back to their pews.
Now Vaudie wasn’t a deep theologian; she trusted her pastor to be theologically correct. She had so much trust that quite often she went to sleep during the service and left the driving to me!
On this Sunday, she dozed off during the children’s sermon and when her great-granddaughter started back to her seat the child saw that her great-grandmother was asleep. So she decided just to keep on going and sit in the back of the church with her mother. So far, so good.
Vaudie almost broke up my sermon a few minutes later. She finished her nap in the middle of my sermon and remembered that her great-granddaughter was sitting with her. But Vaudie looked around, and no child was on the pew with her. A perplexed expression took charge of her face, and she began a search. She looked at the pew in front of her, and the pew back of her. No child. She was sitting on the end of the pew, so she peered out into the aisle, looking down to the front toward me and back up the aisle to the main entrance doors. No child. She managed to stoop down and look under her pew, but still no child.
For the rest of the service she wore a puzzled expression, looking up and down the aisle every now and then. All around her, smiles were evident and I had a hard time keeping my mind on the sermon. Vaudie was convinced she had somehow lost a child right there in the church and in the middle of the service.
Well, if you doze during the service, you may lose more than the train of thought of the preacher. Clearly, however, there are some things you ought to lose in church. True worship leads us to lose thoughts of anger, revenge, jealousy toward other people.
True worship has a way of flowing through our minds and hearts and having a cleansing effect. We find that we lose our guilt and find forgiveness; we lose our complacency and find deeper commitment.
Why not lose something at church next Sunday?