I called my Grandma a few weeks ago while she was baking cookies for a funeral the next day. I asked about the funeral and she said it was for Arnie, a sweet older man who went to the CRC church I grew up in.
“Remember Arnie?” she asked.
Of course, I thought.
Arnie first started coming to Battle Creek CRC (now Covenant Hope) as a brand new believer. I’d guess he was somewhere in his mid-to-late 60s. Outgoing and warm, Arnie quickly became involved in just about everything. I sat by Arnie at Wednesday night potlucks before GEMS and shook his hand on Sunday mornings.
What I didn’t mention to my Grandma was the strangely specific memory that came to mind when I thought of Arnie. It was during an evening service (yes, these were the days of Sunday night church) that he made a big impression on my middle school self. The evening service usually allowed time for ‘pass the mic’ sharing and to be honest, this time could drag.
On this particular Sunday, Arnie raised his hand to share. In a loud and fast voice he told the church he was reading through the Bible for the first time. He was trying to make sense of the Old Testament. Gulp, I thought.
But he was excited about what he was reading. He was shocked by the stories of God’s people messing up again and again. He was afraid of God’s wrath. He was intrigued by God’s love. Arnie was asking questions. He was engaged. The Old Testament was not required reading for him.
Arnie went on to say that he was in the middle of the book of Malachi. Only he didn’t say MAL-uh-kai. He said Muh-la-CHEE (as in rhymes with ‘me’). And if I wasn’t paying attention before, he had me now.
Suddenly I was trying to remember what the book of Malachi was even about. But all that came to mind were the sing-song words of a Bible memorization song:
“Last of all is Malachi,
now you know we’re through,
books of the Old Testament,
now I have learned you!”
Arnie talked for a minute more, his curious energy bringing the Old Testament to life. As he sat back down, I wanted to hug him. I wanted to say thank you for making a middle schooler interested in the book of Malachi. I wanted to give him a high five for daring to pronounce downright difficult biblical names.
But most of all I wanted to thank him for the most memorable Sunday night church service ever.