Every Sunday I do a “sermon in a sack,” which is a cute name for the children’s sermon. Lots of precious little kids skip down the church’s aisle and plop down in front of me, eagerly waiting to discover the contents in “the sack.” Okay, eagerly might be a tad strong. And each Sunday I try not to disappoint. There is some object in the sack—baseball, alarm clock, hammer—some object that becomes a sermon for the kids.
One Wednesday night, I asked one of those kids if his mom was at church. He said “no,” and that was that. But he went home that night and told his mom, “that guy who does the thing in the sack was looking for you.” So, I am now “that guy who does the thing in the sack.” I am known, at least to him, for something I do.
I am not “Pastor Steve” or “Natalie’s dad.” No, to him I am “that guy.” It could be a lot worse. I remember preachers who were my pastors, and I know it could be so much worse. I could be “that guy who wears the same suit every Sunday.” Or how would I like it if he had said, “that guy who always wears a matching tie and hanky.” I guess I should take some solace in being “the sack guy.”
We are known for what we do. And for what we say. He doesn’t really know me well enough to know how charming, witty, kind, and intelligent I am. Those who know me well would dispute the charming part…and the rest. So, he knows me by what he has seen me do.
I don’t want to sound hokey, but the statement that comes to mind is one I learned in Sunday school as a kid: “You are the only Bible some people will ever read.” If we are known to him and scores of kids like him by what we do and say, then be careful what you do and say. Don’t do or say anything that would do harm or present a bad impression to a kid.
It’s not a bad thing, by the way, to be known for what you do. “She’s the lady who works at the Soup Kitchen.” “He’s the kind man who gives me a smile at church.” “That’s the teenager who took my groceries out to the car.”
The children are watching us for sure. That’s fine with me. Go ahead and watch me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect; I know that and my kids know it for sure. I have a few church members fooled, but for the most part, they know me. I try to be transparent. For a lot of people, religious people especially, and Christians for sure, there is a gap as wide as the Chattahoochee between the artificial and the authentic. The more authentic we are, then the closer we are to God. The more artificial we are, the closer we are to the Pharisees. Let’s all strive to be authentically, not artificially, Christian.
As for the kids, Robert Fulghum said it best: “Don’t worry that they won’t listen, worry that they are always watching.” Well, I know they are watching “the sack guy.”