Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
- Colossians 4:7-9
This past Sunday, we celebrated a few things at church. First, it was Pentecost Sunday, a day commemorating the birth of the church. The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles like a tongue of fire, roughly 50 days after Passover and Jesus’ resurrection. Peter preached a sermon and thousands became followers. Funny, I wrote about the Holy Spirit working through Martin Luther that day and the pastor preached about Tychicus being an encourager, just as the Holy Spirit is our encourager, all the time, for us. Neither one of us used the first Pentecost of Acts 2 as our Scripture reference.
For the pastor’s benefit, if he reads this, he’ll know I learned something from his sermon. I always do, but I love joking with him in the handshake line, my way of cheering him up – encouragement. But when it comes to a good joke, he needs little encouragement.
The church was also celebrating music – Music Sunday. The choir had two different anthems and the bell choir played the prelude. I have come to understand that the bell choir does not like being referred to as the “Ding-a-lings.” See, I learned even more on Sunday.
The problem was that since this was a special Sunday, two young girls were dressed in bright red robes, given lit tapers, and asked to light the two candles at the front of the church. We used to have regularly scheduled acolytes, but lately, it has been an usher with a butane lighter who lights the candles.
The reason for getting fancy being a problem is that the music director conducts the bell choir from the center aisle of the sanctuary. The two little girls, walking side by side, got to where he was and stopped. The older girl had the younger acolyte squeeze in front of her. As she did so, the music director realized he was in the way and slid to the side so that the acolytes could pass.
This may have contributed to the younger girl’s fumbling, and mounting, problems, but she was a bit too short to see the wick of her assigned candle. In the process of trying to light the candle, she snuffed out her taper. She gestured panic to the other girl. The older girl had already snuffed her taper after lighting her candle. The older girl did not panic and also realized that the other girl was too short to see the wick. She quickly relit her taper from the lighted candle and then lit the other candle. They quickly walked down the side aisle rather than wrestle with the music director again – as the Prelude was still in progress.
The older acolyte fixed the problem and encouraged her younger counterpart. Their performance was a sermon, much like the sermon on Tychicus.
But, my mind was a bit twisted on Sunday. I found something funny in everything that day. Maybe my mirth and jocularity stemmed from being awakened at 3:30 in the morning with a drippy nose, unable to return to sleep. But maybe dark forces were at work. Nah! It could just as easily have been the Holy Spirit telling me what to post on Wednesday.
You see, in all of this set of information, I imagined seeing two old friends. They were good old boys, Jedidiah and Huckleberry. They don’t make it to church much. They usually hang around the bunkhouse, but occasionally they go into town after a payday and blow off steam. Jed always goes to church after having his fun. He invites whoever is willing to go with him. This time it was Huck.
Jed explained to Huck before the service started that Huck would have to save his questions until the service was over and the preacher walked out of the room. Then, they could go to the Narthex, have some coffee, and Jed would then answer Huck’s questions. Huck asked what a Narthex was, but Jed cut him off. Since they both made it to the Narthex, Huck must have simply followed Jed.
I overheard their conversation.
Huck: What’s a Narthex, Jedidiah?
Jed: A Narthex is the Greek word for the porch or a small chamber. In the old days, it was on the west end of a church, but compass direction doesn’t mean much anymore.
Huck: Then why didn’t they call it Westex, if it ain’t on the North end of the church?
Jed was about to make the distinction between Narth and North, but he let that one go. He could tell Huck had a bunch of questions.
Huck: Once that preacher quit announcing stuff, the music started again. That I get, but what were those little pixies doing in them red robes?
Jed (smiling at his friend): Those young girls aren’t pixies. They are acolytes.
Huck: Humpf. I could have swore they lit candles. I didn’t know those children were lighting Acks on that table up front.
Jed: No, Huckleberry, an ‘acolyte’ is a helper to someone that is very important. It’s another of those Greek words.
Huck: If you’re going to tell me that the preacher was very important, then why was half the crowd sleeping when he was talking?
Jed: No, Huck. The preacher is no more important than you and me. He just guides us as we worship God. God is the ‘Someone’ who is very important. God is the God of Light. Lighting a candle is symbolic. God promises to be there if two or more are gathered in His name. The lit candle is a symbol saying that God is in the house. It helps us to remember who we are really worshiping.
Huck: Well, you told me to take notes. The children’s message came along. I understood that pretty good. After that they passed the plate around. You whispered for me to put some money in, and then you wouldn’t let me make change. What’s up with that?
Jed: The preacher was asking us to give our tithes and our offerings. Ten percent of what you make is generally considered a tithe, but an offering is above and beyond the ten percent. You know, ‘cause God blessed you extra special.
Huck: You shoulda said something yesterday. I didn’t have ten percent left. And it sure makes me feel sorry for all the folks in the church. Some folks didn’t put nothing in the plate and others put less than I did. Must be a whole crowd of poor folks.
Jed (clearing his throat): Maybe they don’t get paid the same week we get paid, Huckleberry.
Huck: And then the preacher started praising this feller, Tick-and-Cuss. I don’t know about you, but the last time a tick bit me and latched on real tight, I cussed. And it was nothing to give praises about.
Jed: No, it was a fellow’s name, Tychicus, like Tike-a-cuss.
Huck: Your not going to tell me he was a Greek feller, are you?
Jed: No, Huckleberry. He might have been a Greek, but I think he came from Asia Minor.
Huck: So, he was a miner from China? What was he mining, gold?
Jed: Nope, Asia Minor is what they called Turkey back in those days. He might have been a Greek living there, but he was probably what you’d call a Turk these days.
Huck: So, what was Tychicus doing raising paracletes?
Jed: Where did that come from?
Huck: Well, there was a song long ago on the radio. “And two canaries make a pair, they call it a paraclete.” (Alan Sherman, One Hippopotami – with one word changed)
Jed: Huckleberry, that song was a whole bunch of jokes. If two canaries make babies, they make canaries, and in the song it’s not a paraclete. It’s a parakeet. That’s a different bird altogether. That was all just a joke in the song.
Huck: But I clearly heard the preacher talking about Tychicus and a paraclete.
Jed: Huckleberry, he was saying that Tychicus was a paraclete.
Huck: He was a bird?!
Jed: No, Huck, a paraclete is another Greek word for helper. It is used for a special kind of help, when you encourage someone. You know, you pick up their spirits when they get low.
Huck: Like you do sometimes, Jed? You know, when you start singing songs in the bunkhouse ‘cause we just finished a hard day of work?
Jed: Yep, something like that.
Huck: You know, Jedidiah, if you hadn’t encouraged me, I wouldn’t have come to church with you. And since you know all this Churchie stuff and you are willing to answer my questions, you have encouraged me to come back again sometime. I might get lost, but I know you can ‘splain stuff. (For those who may not have English as a first language, especially Southern and Southwestern American English, ’splain is a shortened version of ‘explain.’)
Jed: I’m glad you want to come back.
Huck: But, Jedidiah, can we go to a different church next time? I could pick up more if it was an American church instead of a Greek church.
Jed: A Greek church?
Huck: Yeah, this church has a Narthex, and acolytes, and paracletes. I’m having a hard enough time understanding the English part, much less the Greek stuff!
Let’s hope Jedidiah and Huckleberry or even other imaginary friends from the bunkhouse mosey into church again sometime soon, maybe when other Churchie stuff needs ‘splaining.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.