Have you ever said “save me a seat” to anyone or, perhaps, told someone that you would “save” a seat for them? It is a polite thing to do, even if others are looking for a seat and find you “saving” one. “Is that saved,” they will say? as they point to the empty seat. You will quickly throw a coat or program over the chair to show that it is really “saved.”
Now, first of all, forget the semantics. Even though you are at a Baptist church (pronounced Babdist in Texas), the chair is not “saved” in the same way that a sinner is. It is simply reserved or promised as a standby for somebody else.
It can be complicated: for example, we have tried, upon occasion, to reserve seven seats for our family. It is a scramble to find enough bulletins, song books, or bits of spare clothing to place on all the chairs we wish to claim for our family. It takes up most of a row and can cause a bit of a row if the family is late and others are looking for a spare seats.
I have often saved a seat for my wife and last Sunday I asked her to save one for me. I was to take part in a gathering of my older Bible Study peers around a piano, where our church pianist—a well-known and outstanding one—would lead us in a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
This isn’t a story about the performance—I have written that elsewhere—rather, it is about my wife and I saving seats for each other.
After our singing “practice” I had gone toward the front of the church so that when the time came to sing, I would not have to amble down the aisle looking for the piano. I think I told my wife “save me a seat down towards the front.” She says I added “on the left-hand side, which is nearest to the piano.” I don’t remember that part, but it did turn out to be somewhat crucial. However, she is left-handed, so it was not unnatural for her to save me a seat down towards the front on the left-hand side.
My wife loves to talk to people, so I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t show up for the service a bit early. However, when the pastor sounded the gongs and she still had not arrived, I began to worry. “Had she had stroke, a bad headache, got lost in the bathroom?” I had left my i-phone in the car so I couldn’t call 911 or the pastor. I was left alone to worry and to pray—in that order.
In the meantime, my wife was saving a seat for me in the area she thought I had specified. Others had asked her, like they had asked me, “Is that seat saved?” She said it was, although it was somewhat “lost.”
It was soon—much too soon—for our group to sing and she hadn’t arrived. Nevertheless, with calmness and dignity, I went to the center stage with my Bible Sudy colleagues. I glanced around the congregation to try and spot my wife. “Was she wearing her red coat or the yellow one?” I asked myself. (It turned out it was blue, but that is irrelevant.) I couldn’t find her anywhere in the immediate front area, so I concentrated on our performance.
We did our piece and it was time to return to our chairs. For some reason, mainly because I couldn’t see my wife anywhere, I passed by my saved chair and wondered, zombie-like, the full length of the aisle to the exit doors, searching for her. Still no wife, so I veered off to the left near the back and found a chair near a pillar. I reasoned that when we stood up to sing I would discover her.
I had forgotten that the next item was the sermon—no more standing up until we “passed the peace” at the end of the announcements. I wanted to slip a note to Joe, who was going to give the proclamations, saying “Would Joice Franklin please report to the second row from the back, or the right-hand side,” but there wasn’t time.
I waited until we were told to “pass the peace,” then scrutinized the audience again. As the pastor dismissed us, I knew she would be toward the end of the outgoing line, so I waited impatiently for her. There she was! Outside, where no one could hear us, we compared notes. “Where were you? she asked. “I was saving a seat for you.” The discussion was not coherent from that point on, so I will end it here.
It did pose a theological question in my mind: “Can churches, whose denominations do not believe in eternal security, have ‘saved’ seats?” Or, if they do, “how long can they be saved?” Serious questions that I will have to take up with the pastor.
Next time, with the help of a GPS and an i-phone, we will save seats for each other, but I will insist that she wear her red coat, perhaps with an arrow and a note on the back saying, “Karl, sit there.”
Sunday, March 4, 2018