And the Worst Penmanship Award Goes To…
See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! – Galatians 6:11 (NRSV)
Manuscripts in the ancient world were weird. They would be all in one consistent, compact, neat set of handwriting. There would be no punctuation. There wouldn’t even be spaces between words.
Why write this way? The answer is totally pedestrian. Because paper was expensive. It might be leather, or imported materials made from specially processed Nile-delta reeds. A far cry from popping down to the supply closet for a ream of 8.5 x 11.
With that in mind, this dashed-off verse of Galatians tells us something interesting. Paul has taken over from the professional scribe in order to write in his own handwriting. The reader could immediately tell it was Paul writing because … well … he had lousy penmanship.
Why have Paul write at all? Because the intimacy of Paul’s own handwriting was more important than getting every last detail perfectly, precisely on point. Production value is a good thing, and so is authenticity and intimacy.
So here’s a shoutout to everyone—clergy and laity—who spent so much time making Advent and Christmas “happen” through worship. Here’s to the hours spent editing videos and singing with one earbud in for the virtual choir. Here’s to the volunteers who found volunteers and to the choreographers of socially distanced Nativity plays. Here’s to every last one of you who rolled with it and found ways to make it work.
Was it as perfect as Hollywood? No, it was so much more authentic and intimate. Don’t take my word for it. Saint Paul and his big ol’ loopy letters have been smiling down on us all along.
Thank you, God, for the joy of worshiping in new ways.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.