I always come early for morning services so I can take my place undetected under the back bench. To claim back seats some parishioners come early. I don’t understand this. They go early to concerts to beat others to the front seats, yet early to church to claim the back ones. Early arrivals in church are rivals.
Last week the lady who usually comes first came second. It spoiled the whole day for her, including the worship hour. The Bible says something about seeking the Lord early. I wish some good folks who sit above me would not take those words so literally.
Coming early to avoid detection gives me a vantage point where I can keep a sharp lookout for whatever edibles may fall to the floor. I mark the spots in my mind so I can beat the custodian and his broom. Sometimes it rains peppermints. Recently one fell right in front of me and rolled all the way to the front through a forest of feet. I often wonder why people use them as sermon supplements. There is little nourishment in peppermints, like some sermons I hear.
Speaking of feet, these are mostly my view of God’s people. While the minister is addressing souls, I am studying soles. I find them interesting. Some people’s soles are in better shape than their souls. The man who usually sits in front of me has holes in his. Soles, I mean. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15, KJV). Yes, and blessed too are the feet of those who use them to come to church. Pondering them I sometimes think of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 that the head cannot say to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
And what feet! Little ones and size 13s! Dainty ones encased in high heels and others in sneakers. Some like sapling roots and others like tree trunks. I see old feet and swollen ankles. Children’s dangling feet and boys’ feet kicking each other. Some gentlemen’s shoes, polished in front but not the back. Often, after the service, the flying feet of children.
The people sing, “Keep Thou my feet, I do not ask to see the distant scene,” and I hear the preacher reading from Psalm 119: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.” For me, the church—the saints—are an army of feet. To apply the words of the late theologian Paul Tillich, I am close to the “ground of their being.”
I smile sometimes when I see all those feet of the saints—the underpinnings of the church—standing still while their other ends are singing, “We’re marching to Zion.” Especially those late to come and swift to leave.
Sitting beneath the back bench for hours, I sometimes fall asleep. I remember dreaming one time. The minister was drowning out my snoring. I opened my eyes and saw a pair of very horrible feet moving up and down the aisle. All eyes were closed except mine. Those horrible feet were attached to someone who wasn’t praying, but preying. It was Satan “going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it” (Job 2:2). I awoke and wondered why the minister didn’t mention his name now and then. In warning!
Then I fell asleep again and wakened in my dream once more. The peoples’ eyes were still closed. The minister was still praying. Then I saw some dusty sandaled feet walking up and down the aisle while the ugly ones disappeared. I knew they were the feet of Jesus. Then I thought about those lines from Tennyson in the church library downstairs:
Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.