I found it under a pew. We had a funeral at the church this week, so before the service I went into the sanctuary just to neaten up a bit. There were some Sunday bulletins in the pew racks and an upside down hymnal or two. And an offering envelope on the floor.
Of course we know that pew envelopes are used mostly as notepaper or scratch pads. We buy them by the hundreds and aren’t too concerned that few of them ever make it into the offering plate. And, yes, I realize not all the notes taken during worship are to record an especially well made or insightful point from the sermon.
Written on the back of the pew envelope and then dropped on the sanctuary floor after this past Sunday’s service, I assume, was this note, “You are a poo poo head.” I have some idea of who usually sits in that part of the room, but far be it from me to try to guess the author or the recipient of the note. Was it sibling to sibling? Maybe spouse to spouse depending on how the morning had gone. Was it declarative or accusative?
The fact of the matter is, that we at LPC worship with poo poo heads every week, and, yes, we sometimes make derogatory comments, pass notes with mean messages. Scatocephalophobia, I’ll call it. It’s a problem in the church.
Jesus knew about scatocephalophobia, and he addressed the issue head on in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:21-24
The Aramaic word transliterated into Greek and then translated into English as “fool” is not easy to translate. The NIV translation and others simply insert a transliteration of the Greek-transliterated Aramaic, “raca.” It probably means “empty one” or “empty-headed” or “foolish.” “Poo poo head” works.
In fact, in both the declarative and the accusative sense, we have a poo poo head problem in the church, at LPC. To paraphrase Isaiah 6:5, “Woe is us. We are poo poo heads living in the midst of a poo poo head people.” And like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, we poo poo heads are all too prone to point an accusing finger as we hurl a poo poo head epithet at those no worse than ourselves.
In the declarative sense, we all have scatocephalitis. The Gospel is the good news that if anyone is in Christ he or she is a new person altogether. Poo poo headedness is not what we want. In all seriousness, only the Holy Spirit has the power transform us into new creatures.
In an accusative sense, all of us are scatocephalaphobes. “Raca” falls from our tongues all too easily. We think we can spy splinters despite the logs in our own eyes. In all seriousness, we who have been given new life in Christ have to do better. The world is watching.
To the note writer from last Sunday’s worship service: I get it. You were stuck next to a poo poo head, a brother or a sister, your husband or your wife, all service long. And, yeah, you’re probably right in your assessment. Those poo poo heads are everywhere. But, if you think about it, you’re probably a bit of a poo poo head yourself. The good news is that the God who created you and the poo poo head next to you in the pew is not content with things as they are. He’s done what it takes to make you and your sister or your brother, your husband or your wife, new altogether.
To all of us aware of our own scatocephalitis and our scatocephalaphobia, please know that poo poo heads are always welcome at LPC. Be careful, though, we serve and worship a God who intends to make all things new.
See you Sunday