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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Worship (corporate) (10/04/07)

TITLE: Biting the Dust
By Elizabeth Burton


The organist, 13-year-old Natalie Maze, hit the wrong chord. Again. And Reverend Luke Wilson tried for the fourth time that morning to disguise his wincing. If my classmates from Juliard could see me now.

The congregation, such as it was, never seemed to notice Natalie’s mistakes. 16 people strong (and that only if you counted Mrs. Selby’s sleeping baby as a member), they were currently turning “Ride On, King Jesus” into something barely recognizable as a song. Luke and his classically trained voice might as well have been singing into a hurricane. It says to make a joyful noise, not necessarily a pretty one.

He’d paid his way through seminary as a backup singer for any number of groups. After graduation, he’d been excited to learn that his first pastorate was in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, a place with a long tradition of folk music. No pay, but with his credentials, he had no problem getting a job as a choir director for the local school system. And so, here he was, pastor to the church of the tune deaf.

He ran over his sermon in his mind while they butchered “We Bow Down.” He could hear his wife and daughter’s voices, almost drowned out by the monotones around them. The song ended. Mercifully.

“Who has a prayer request?” His seminary professors would have been aghast at the informality, but he’d learned early on that his parishioners weren’t comfortable with the trappings of what he’d been taught to see as “Church.”

People called out requests from their seats: Mrs. Haywood’s arthritis, safety for the school band’s trip, little Mary Watson’s sick puppy, Alice Klein’s dying mother, Jimmy Watson’s spelling test on Monday. “Nothing too big or too small for God,” as Mr. Boggs in the front row liked to say.

Luke Wilson knelt to pray. “Lord, we come to you today to offer our hearts in praise and...”

“Waaahhh!” Mrs. Selby’s baby announced that she had woken up. The Reverend heard a stifled giggle he suspected belonged to his daughter. He tried to regain his composure, calling on every dignified phrase he’d ever heard anyone use in prayer.

“...worship to You. We bring our requests and lay them down at Your feet, knowing You are both the Creator of Heaven and Earth and a loving Father who cares about all His children...”

The “Meow...meow” had to come from Wally, the neighbor’s cat who considered it his personal mission to sneak into the sanctuary every Sunday. There were a few chuckles as Luke’s wife slipped out of her seat to catch the trespasser. Lord this is turning into a circus. Help!

“...and longs to reveal Himself to them. We ask...”

A crash of discordant notes startled everyone. Wally had jumped onto the organ’s keyboard to escape capture. Holly Wilson, Luke’s wife, lunged and grabbed him. With a “Rrawwrrr!” of protest, Wally was escorted outside. The chuckles had turned into quiet laugher. Lord, this is a disaster. Do something, please!

“...We ask that You consider our requests, search our hearts and draw us closer to You. We know that in Your eyes, we are but dust...”

The congregation burst out into raucous, uncontrollable laughter. What now? Did Wally get back in? And then it hit him. In his distraction, he’d paused between the words—he’d just called his entire congregation “butt dust!” I give up, Lord.

He rose from the floor with a groan, his face on fire. He looked out on the sanctuary. Even old Mrs. Pickle, the widow who rarely smiled and thought frivolity was of the devil, was slapping her knee with delight. Holly caught her husband’s eye and winked, still wiping tears away. And Luke found himself laughing right along with them. Guess You did something after all, huh Lord?

The laugher started up again when Luke announced his sermon topic: Pride goeth before a fall.

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This article has been read 916 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 10/11/07
Oh, what a funny story! Thanks for the reminder that we take it all SO VEDDY, VEDDY seriously sometimes, we lose our sense of humor. This is a great entry. I could almost see the little church with it's quirky congregation and its poor pastor trying so hard to do "the right thing" Sunday after Sunday. I'd like to read a whole book about this group of people. You've got me hooked on the whole bunch.
Joanne Sher 10/12/07
LOVE your MC's voice- and your writing is amazingly vivid. I was RIGHT there. Delightful.
Janice Cartwright10/12/07
This reminded me somewhat of the Preacher in "Because of Wynn Dixie." You really captured the homespun, unsophisticated character of such a congregation and the gradual melting of the MC's heart. I love stories where the MC changes and grows.
valerie chambers10/12/07
This is so funny.I could soooo relate to the poor Pastor but I would have been the first one hooting over the butt dust. Well done!
Carol Wiley10/13/07
Your article was so funny. Would love to see a story about the church when they are further down the road together.
Crystal Dueck10/14/07
hahaha wow that was wonderfully funny! great story, so simple and yet sooo funny!
william price10/14/07
One of my favorites. Loved the character and the voice of the writer. God bless.
Therese Witkus10/15/07
A great story, the tears of laughter are still running down my face. Point well taken and all who read this will have to beware of sermons bearing the word dust, ever after!
Sheri Gordon10/18/07
Congratulations on your EC. This is hysterical -- I almost spit water on the keyboard when I read "butt dust". Very clever, and very good writing.
Seema Bagai 10/19/07
Thanks for the laugh. Congrats on the win.
LauraLee Shaw10/19/07
I can't believe I missed this one when I was skimming through last week. INcredible piece!!!!!!