I have always enjoyed fellowship meals at church. Several years ago I was attending a men’s breakfast that was being held at our church. People bring a sundry of delicacies to feast upon at such events. On this occasion I spotted some hot, homemade pickled peppers. Yum!
As I was walking through this smorgasbord of delectable delights, I noticed a problem with the peppers. I didn’t have a way to harvest the peppers from the dish. Someone had removed the serving fork. While no one was looking, I snatched several with my fingers. Now, my mother taught me different, but temptation got the better of me that morning. Satisfied with my bounty, I moved along with no one the wiser. By the way, they were just as hot and delicious as I knew they would be. I thought nothing more of the situation.
On this particular Sunday, the men were singing in the choir and I was participating. If there was going to be a men’s breakfast… there was probably going to be a men’s choir. The two usually went hand in hand. After singing a few hymns, there was a call to prayer. Sometime during the prayer I placed my hands over my face to pray. In addition, I moved my thumb and forefinger to the bridge of my nose and pressed against the inside corners of my eyes. This was a subconscious type of manuever I had often done while concentrating on prayer. Little did I know it was an enormous mistake.
My eyes began to sting and water flowed from them like a fire hose. I tried to fight it off by rubbing my eyes again and again. This only turned the stinging into intense burning. I was in agony and the flow of water only increased. I began to sniffle and once again started wiping my eyes. As my concentration began to suffer, I felt my face begin to turn blood-red as if it was being rubbed with sand paper. It was then that I knew my sins had surely found me out. I should have never handled those hot peppers without a serving fork. The tears were now gushing down my face like Niagara Falls.
At this point things began to get out of hand. The men beside me started passing handkerchiefs and patting me on the back like I had lost a member of my family. I was experiencing grief, just not the type they believed. They assumed I was being touched by the Lord or was having a religious experience. I felt like I was locked in some interrogation room under bright lights. What was I gonna do? I was having an experience alright!
The fire only increased. Peppers and eyes do not go together. It couldn’t have been any worse if I had been allergic to them. Nuclear waste couldn’t have burned any worse than those peppers. My ears were now ringing, sweat was pouring off my forehead and I could no longer focus. I wanted to make a dash for the door but I couldn’t see!
When I finally was able to take a peek, I noticed the entire men’s choir was now crying. At first I thought they too had handled those pickled peppers. No, they were crying because I was crying. They thought I was being touched by the Spirit… so they were moved. I couldn’t believe it. The whole choir was tore-up because I handled peppers without a serving fork. Now I really felt like crying.
The men’s choir was supposed to sing a special music selection next. As the men tried to gather themselves to sing the next selected number, the water works were turned on full blast. What started out as a lone contagion quickly grew into a full-blown epidemic. I detected that the men were trying to fight it off. The more they struggled to gather their emotions, the worse it became. It was a useless battle. The battle was over before it began. Sniper fire wouldn’t have made these men crumble any quicker. They melted like butter in a microwave. Have you ever seen 30 burly men all crying at once? I was thankful to have a hymnal in my hand so that I could hide behind it. As I took at peek over the top of my hymnal, as best I could make out over half the church was now beginning to weep and sob. Would this never end?
Without a word being spoken, all the pastor could do was open up the altar for people to come forward and conduct business. They did… it mass! As best as I could see everyone continued to cry, blow their noses, hug, and pray together. To say there wasn’t a “dry eye in the house” was an understatement. What started out as a men’s breakfast turned into a crying fest with people getting right with the Lord. Who knew so many people needed to do business with God?
The one who really needed to confess was me and I wasn’t going to confess anything, especially my sin. At least all of the commotion gave me some ground cover to make a move. I maneuvered my way to the edge of the crowd, hugging and crying all the way. As soon as humanly possible, I darted out the door to the bathroom. As I splashed water across my face… I finally was able to get some relief. Oh, the bliss of something cool on my irritated eyeballs. Thankfully, my pain and suffering was coming to an end.
I made my way back into church and sat in the back. The service continued on until everyone cried their way to freedom. As we departed, everyone continued to hug and comment that this was the best service in years. People talked about it for weeks and months afterward, far beyond the walls of our church.
I too made a committment that day.. Never again, would I eat with my fingers in the Lord’s House.