For the past few days, the first phrase of a song from My Fair Lady has been running through my head. The song, entitled "Show me," begins: "Words, words, words...(I'm so sick of words)." The leading lady, Eliza Doolittle, is responding to a young man named Freddy as he tries to woo her with romantic phrases. The gist of the song is - listen, don't tell me you love me, do something about it! Of course, it takes an entire song (and several pages of lyrics) to get this message across, but finally Freddy gets the point. Words are important, but without appropriate action, they're meaningless. The flip side is, words that are coupled with action have real staying power.
Dan and I arrived at our condo here in the Keys last evening. Once the unpacking was done, we checked the internet for local churches and found several that caught our eye, including one not too far away. This morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast and then headed out into the sunshine. Folks were friendly, and we settled in for a time of worship. After the opening song and call to worship, the pastor invited the children up to the front to hear the children's sermon. One little boy was especially excitable, and during the illustration, the pastor called him out in a way that was not intended to be unkind, but resulted in the boy's dissolving into tears on stage.
The pastor was visibly upset and brought the children's time to a quick close. He asked the worship team to reprise a song from the earlier set, and dismissed the kids to Sunday School. As the youngsters headed down the aisle, the pastor headed to the crying child, and, putting his arm around the boy, walked with him to the back of the auditorium. Upon his return, he apologized to the parents of the child, and to the congregation. He emphasized that leaders were fallible, they needed grace and forgiveness just like any congregant. To see the unpleasant side of their pastor, he said, though regrettable, showed this to be true. After his comments, he led us into worship, helping us move the focus of the morning back to a loving God, whose grace was extended to us in both words and deeds.
I was impressed by this young pastor, and by his humility and commitment to both acting and speaking truthfully. Leadership can often talk about the importance of kindness, and modeling community, but to be willing to stop and make things right in a public setting takes a lot of guts. It's the sort of example that a congregation, and even casual visitors, will probably never forget.