They had been instructed to wait, hands to themselves, lips zipped. Three obeyed, two did not. I could tell not only by the giggling that the request had been disobeyed, but also who the culprits were.
“Joseph, Matt... would you like to explain yourselves?”
“Matt started it.”
We teach the students to confess their own sins, so I cut them off at the pass. “Wait just a minute there, you two. I don’t want to hear from either one of you what the other guy did. I want to hear from Joseph what Joseph did, and from Matt what Matt did.”
“Well, Matt tickled me first...”
“No, I didn’t! Joseph...”
This was going nowhere fast. “OK. All I can tell from this business is that two boys have sentences to write during recess.” They glared at each other. Knowing the two boys as well as I do and the attendant demeanor of both, I could well surmise exactly who started what. Still, it didn't matter.
Our school building isn't large. Noise carries. The younger class has their story time and takes naps after lunch. We have learned to be quiet passing their room. It is a matter of being considerate for one's neighbor.
The previous year the entire class was lined up after lunch, ready to go back to class. I was called away from the group for a moment or two. When I returned, only Jacob was standing quietly in line. Four boys and two girls were giggling and tickling each other down the hallway. Jacob and I watched them silently, when suddenly one and then another realized we were doing so. There was a mad dash back to the line as they reformed as they were in the first place.
When we returned to the room, a distance of roughly fifteen feet, I quickly wrote six names on the board. How the heavens resounded with pleas for mercy! None was guilty, yet each named the other as fault. “I will not be a follower” was the sentence each wrote, one for each year of age. It became their mantra for reminding themselves to stay away from trouble. If another starts something, the best way to “include yourself out” is to not be a follower. Yet, here were two of the original culprits in that escapade at it again. Par for the course.
Normally an offense involves writing an appropriate sentence plus the First Commandment and whatever other Commandment has been transgressed. The students are accustomed to this procedure, so when I gave Joseph his assignment he was perplexed.
When Joseph completed his assignment, he read them to me.
“Even if others do what is wrong, I will do what is right.”
“And lead us not into temptation.
What does this mean?
God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”
“Joseph,” I asked, “have you figured out yet why I had you write that section of the Catechism?”
“How did you get into trouble.”
I cut him short. “Are you still trying to use the Eve defense?”
“The Eve defense. Don’t you remember what Adam said to God when He went looking for Adam and Eve after they ate from the Tree?”
“Sure. Adam said Eve made him do it.”
“Right, Joseph. But he said something else, too. Remember that God said His creation wasn’t good without a woman for the man, so He made Eve and gave her to Adam. Then when Adam and Eve sinned, Adam said, ‘That woman You gave me...’ So who was Adam blaming the first sin on?”
This was a tough question. Joseph had to stare at the ground and draw circles a bit with his toe before he finally said, “Jesus. I mean, God. He was really blaming God. Wishing He hadn’t created Eve.”
“That’s right. So when you blame Matt for something you should have done...”
This time Joseph cut me off short. He rolled his eyes with the dawning of revelation. “Oh man! I gotta apologize to Matt! Hey, Deaconess, I am really sorry!”
“Joseph, Jesus has already forgiven you. Me, too. Go, now, and play in peace.”
We like our excuses and blame-games. They are the familiar trappings we crawl behind when the fig leaves with which we have constructed coverings for ourselves begin to shrivel and crumble. Jesus will have none of that. Instead whenever He shows up He “makes all men sinners,” as Luther would say. But in learning to say, “I am the sinner,” to strip away the fig leaves and the pretensions, to become finally completely naked once more before God and tell Him what He already knows- What? Was He asleep or on vacation as we sinned?- is to at last receive the clothing He would give us: Christ’s righteousness. Jesus takes our sin from us in order to clothe us in Himself. This is what a life in Baptism is.