Jan 29, 2011

Simplicity

As many of my friends know, I am about as indiscriminate reader as there is. I read textbooks and novels; anthologies and cereal boxes; box scores and advertisements for farm products. So . . . the other day in Half Price Bookstore (redeeming a delightful gift card) I ran across an anthology in a series from the Teachers & Writers Collaborative book project. Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965), a Japanese writer, penned the essay I turned to. The first sentence in his “In Praise of Shadows” was this:

What incredible pains the fancier of traditional architecture must take when he sets out to build a house in pure Japanese style, striving somehow to make electric wires, gas pipes, and water lines harmonize with the austerity of Japanese rooms—even someone who has never built a house for himself must sense this when he visits a teahouse, a restaurant, or an inn (The Art of the Personal Essay, Anchor Books: Doubleday, New York, 1994, p. 335).

The essay goes on to talk about post World War II Japan and how Japan must follow the West—hence references to electric wires, gas pipes, and water lines. But the author also mulls over what is given up in the bargain.

As I read this essay I pondered on the direction and mission of the church. I started going regularly to Sunday school and worship when I was six or seven. I recall my feet not touching the floor as I sat in the acolyte seat (not that my feet touch now either). My parents were never much on church, but my father did pack his Sunday school class when they persuaded “the too busy doctor” to teach six or seven time a year. So I habitually walked myself the ¾ mile to church each Sabbath.

The olden days were good. I felt safe at church, knew my pastor, and felt loved by many people who seemed to take an obliging interest in me. It seems, however, that those days are long gone. Yet, the notion of a community of faith where a small child by him or her self can feel the encouragement and support of adults seems like a good thing. Even fifty years later I recall many of the adults by name who helped me along the way.

Where in our lives can we help make a difference in the life of someone who may well be a leader in our society in forty or fifty years?

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“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Luke 18:16).

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