“Awake, O Sleeper”

LeeAnnRubsam.com

I grew up in a liturgical church. I’m not there now, but I have fond memories – one of which I’m sharing today. 

Our congregation went through an abrupt transition from a perpetually smiling, always gentle shepherd to a vacancy pastor who had missed his Marine drill sergeant calling. I’ve noticed that people in nondenominational churches don’t put up with such things. They just leave if the pastor doesn’t suit them or if the preaching gets too hot. But in the church of my youth, we hung in there by our fingernails for the sake of denominational loyalty. 

We couldn’t do without our pipe organ, and our elderly organist thought we couldn’t do without her, either. Mrs. Leidenfeist must have been installed along with the pipes seventy years before. Her possessiveness of her organist position had increased proportionately with the percentage of clinker notes we now endured through each Sunday. She fussed if anybody else ever touched the keys, and she never took a vacation for fear of finding a permanent replacement on her bench when she returned. The elder board, not knowing how to turn her out to pasture without devastating her tender sensibilities, piously reminded complainers that forbearance was a virtue. 

One summer Sunday, it all came to a head. Keeping the congregation alert in a sanctuary with no air conditioning was a challenge for the pastor, but he excelled at strategically punctuating his sermon points with thunderous emphasis, so most of us kept our eyelids up. Still, it must have been unbearably hot in the choir loft, where the organ and Mrs. Leidenfeist resided. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have had a hard time keeping awake up there. 

The sermon finally ground to a conclusion, and ending the service required just a little more liturgical dialogue between congregation and pulpit. 

“Let us pray,” intoned our pastor. 

We all waited for our organ cue to respond in song. Deafening silence lingered for an eternal twenty seconds, while the pastor shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Every child, parent, and granny in the building was probably dying to turn around and check out what had gone haywire in the balcony, but the mamas of our denomination had drilled into their children for ten generations past that looking behind us or laughing in church would net us ten thousand years in purgatory – and we didn’t even subscribe to that doctrine! 

“I SAID, ‘Let us pray!!!’” the pastor shouted, as he glared towards the choir loft. 

The organ lady hit the keys with a full body slam, at the same time tromping down hard on the volume pedal. I know the Bible says the resurrection of the dead will be announced with a trumpet blast, but if it had said “organ,” this would have done the job. Mrs. Leidenfeist recovered quickly, and the traditional notes were duly sounded. Not a snicker was heard. How many prayers shot heavenward for divine aid in giggle suppression can only be guessed, but the liturgical response, done with the usual perfect decorum, prevailed over all temptation. 

No doubt the pastor consulted his Excedrin and Maalox bottles for the rest of the day, while the laity enormously enjoyed chicken and Mrs. Leidenfeist’s embarrassment for dinner.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. LOL. I’m pretty sure I know who Mrs. L was. My piano teacher.

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    • Oh no! Seriously??? That’s funny! I’m going to ask about this, next time we meet! 🙂

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