Easy Peasy

Once a month or so I lead the weekly chapel for the kindergarten through sixth grades that comprise the Christian school that leases space for their campus on our church’s property.  Some of you who are already laughing at the thought of me relating to small children need to just simmer down.  I’ll admit, it’s a lot different than my interactions the rest of the week.  Other than the three children that currently occupy my house and that my wife insists are mine.  I interact with them quite a bit, but somehow that seems different.

Each year the school chooses a theme that binds all of the chapel services together.  This year the theme is “Christian Character Traits”.  As some of you may be surmising by now, chapel happens on Wednesdays.  Today is Wednesday.  Chapel takes place about 8am, and it’s currently about 7:45am.  So, rather than further refining and preparing my chapel, that’s right gentle reader, I’m blogging about it in advance to you.
Because this one sort of threw me.  My assigned trait today is gentleness.  How do you define gentleness?  I think culturally we associate it with a soft-touch.  Norman Bates at the end of psycho trying to fake out his observers by insisting that he won’t even kill a fly.  Non-resistance.  Pushover.  Easy mark.  Maybe I’m just cynical, but I think gentleness all too often gets taken for a ride in our culture.  If nice guys finish last and nice is a synonym for gentleness in our culture, then maybe gentle isn’t something I’d like to be – Christian or otherwise.  
I scanned the Hebrew and Greek words whenever gentleness is used in a translation.  There is some variation in the words, but they do tend to generally stress humility.  But contextually, I think that perhaps a good translation and way of thinking about gentleness is appropriateness.  Deuteronomy 32:2 talks about a gentle rain falling on tender grass and we can appreciate that this is a good kind of rain, an appropriate, nourishing kind of rain.  Rain that destroys instead of nurtures is not what we would call appropriate rain.  We may have to deal with it, but it’s out of the ordinary.
Jeremiah 11:19 talks about a gentle lamb.  What is the contrast to this?  A violent lamb?  A Rambo-style lamb with a bandanna around its head and a bandolier around it’s shoulders and a massive machine gun?  A ninja-esque lamb eviscerating the wolves that come for it as well as those who would shear it or slaughter it?  Lambs are gentle.  Lambs that aren’t gentle we suspect are diseased.  Or at least need more caffeine in the mornings.  It’s appropriate for a lamb to be gentle.
On the contrary, we talk about Jesus as being gentle, but Jesus threw a fit in the Temple and scared a bunch of people off with his wild-eyed crazy-talk about what was appropriate for the house of God.  We talk about Jesus as gentle but he made it clear that his gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God that he came to proclaim was going to be the source of all manner of division and conflict, even within a single family.  These aren’t gentle things.  But Jesus’ righteous anger in the Temple was appropriate in the midst of sinful human opportunism, and in a sinful world, the appropriate response to someone who calls sin for what it is is to shut that person up.  It would seem that one can still be gentle even if one is not always what we casually call nice.  
How would you describe gentleness to a bunch of five to ten year olds?  I could go down the easy path of legalism to describe being polite and generous and all manner of other poorly matched synonyms.  I could contribute to the overall association of gentleness as some sort of sign of weakness or pansy-ishness, but I think that’s misleading (though we certainly are called to embrace our weakness when necessary).  
But today  – in about 10 minutes, actually – I’m going to take the tack of appropriateness.  I’ve brought my guitar, and I’m going to ask them which is gentler – me strumming my guitar, or me banging on the drum set in the corner of our sanctuary.  Is gentleness associated only with calmness, or can one be gentle while playing the drums?  Or is exertion antithetical to gentleness?  Gentleness is how we are, not necessarily and only what we do.  Gentleness is ultimately a recognition that God has created everything and everyone around us, and so we need to deal with everything and everyone around us appropriately.  It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to tap on the drums so lightly that they couldn’t be heard, as though that was somehow gentleness.  Nor would it be appropriate for me to play my guitar with drumsticks.  But I treat each instrument – and each person – as an extension of God’s creation, and deal with them in an appropriate way that demonstrates the love of Jesus Christ in me and for them.  
Not perfect, but it’s early.  I think the kids will deal with it well.  It’s time to go.
As I walked towards the sanctuary with my guitar & stand, I heard singing coming from our parish hall on the other end of the building.  A quick check with my schedule verified that I was one week off.  Which means that I’m really uber-prepared, since I now have my chapel message all worked out for next week.  Oh well.  I’ll try to handle my stupidity in a gentle way.

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