On the day of the service, Carl texted me at 8.00 am: ‘Make sure you watch out for roos.’
With eyes peeled, I drove the speed limit thinking about Carl Thiele’s regularisation service. I thought about Carl and his own journey, of living with and through God’s call … how we all have different sensory organs in relation to God’s voice … how we experience joy and lament along the way.
I arrived at the church a little early and took in the scene. Surrounded by vast openness, a blankness in the landscape if you will, St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Rosevale, looked bleak against the dripping sky.
Mud-spattered cars and utes were parked in the ankle-deep mud outside the church fence. I reached into my car for my umbrella and immediately left it where it was. What difference did it make if my shirt was wet when my socks were already full of mud?
Greeted by Pastor Carl and Queensland District Bishop Noel Noack, I settled in for the service. Blanketed in silence, at first I was uncomfortable: my life is normally so full of sound that silence is unnerving. But after a few minutes, I settled back into the painful pew and awaited the words about to flow over me.
Quiet. Silence. Calm.
They came in during the first hymn … a grandmother, three daughters (I assumed) and five grand-daughters, all wearing beautiful dresses.
I smiled as the service progressed: confession, the readings, the psalm, each heightening the intensity of God’s interaction with us. But what I also noticed was that the length of the service turned up the dial on the little girls’ decibel levels. They were fantastic. Then, as Bishop Noel stood to give his address on the specificity of pastors’ calls, one of the girls stood up by the baptismal font and began to dance her little heart out. With hands in the air she jigged and jived, singing whatever tune was available and, as her mother put the inevitable fingers to the mouth …
‘Shhhhhhhh!!!!’ the little girl responded in words that topped them all. ‘It’s okay, Mummy, I’m wearing my knickers!’
Most of the congregation was intent on the sermon, but I was captured by the joy exhibited at the font—the selfless abandon of a little one done with silence, maybe even tired of incomprehensible words. She couldn’t help but lift her hands by the Font of Life and sing …
‘Life is beautiful and it doesn’t even matter what I’m wearing.’ (Or not wearing, for that matter.)
I could use a good dance by the font, remembering the saving grace of the word and water of baptism. A little more joy in my life would do me good I reflected, even as I dodged cows, ‘roos, peacocks and cane toads on the way home.
Probably in your life, too, I’m guessing.
Reid Matthias is pastor of Green Pastures Lutheran Church, Lockrose, Queensland.