One Easter, some friends with small children came over to the house. While the adults talked, the kids ran around the back yard and stuck their feet in the pool.
Believe it or not, kids do not need something with electrons to entertain themselves. They found a frog. Pools and frogs go together.
The frog was scooped out of the water and carefully examined. One little girl hugged it tight against her chest, like you hug a baby doll. Never, however, have I seen a baby doll's eyes bug out like the frog's.
Her elder brother snatched the frog away from her and said, "Let's see if we can make it hop." They sat the frog down on the ground. The frog wobbled a little bit - a little dizzy from all the human interaction. They poked the frog with a twig, and he would hop. If you want to see an example of human depravity, watch preschoolers make a frog hop. Drunk with power, they made the frog jump around the patio for about 10 minutes. At this point, I began to think the frog was in need of post-traumatic stress counseling.
Frogs, of course, know the feeling of being airborne when they hop. A couple of the older kids began to wonder if frogs could fly. One of the smallest girls snatched the frog away from her brother and threw it up in the air. I think she wanted the frog to sprout wings.
Frogs do not sprout wings. They do land, however, with a sickening thud because little girls do not always have the best eye-to-hand coordination.
Two of the older boys decided to play catch - with the frog. They started under-handed but quickly moved to overhanded pitching. I'm no expert on frog body language, but as the frog passed by me for the 11th time, his facial expression was a cry for help.
After a few more minutes of play, the frog was set on the concrete where he lay silently. One of the children said, "I think he's dead." I couldn't blame him. Amongst eight little hands, dying was the preferred option.
What do you do with a dead frog? One of the children said, with some enthusiasm in his voice, "Let's bury him!" Since I was the only pastor present, they ran to me with their request: "Pastor Clay, will you do a funeral for the frog?"
Funeral for a frog:
Processional - "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog"
Scripture - Exodus 8:6 - "So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt and frogs came up and covered the land."
Remarks - "He was a Prince of a Guy until He Croaked"
1. He overcame his tadpole ways;
2. He lifted up his song every evening;
3. Sure he had warts, but don't we all; and
4. It was always tempting to pull his leg and fry it.
Postlude - "It Ain't Easy Being Green"
Just as I was getting up to get the shovel and conduct my first frog funeral, the frog, having momentarily been left alone, gave a mighty leap off the concrete. Four quick hops and he made it into the flower bed and to safety.
The children cried because they had been denied a frog funeral. I am sure the frog made his way to whatever constitutes an emergency room in the frog world. I can imagine explaining his experience to the doctors (frogtors?) and his family: "I was minding my own business when the devil got ahold of me. He squeezed me, made me do his devil's dance, and then, I flew through the air without hoping! I was left for dead, but I stayed still until he was distracted, and then I hopped to safety."
When I think about that afternoon, I think about the church. Not just my church, but every church where Jesus is preached and God's work is done. You can squeeze the church, abuse the church, try to make the church do a few tricks. You can even take delight in planning the church's funeral. Just when you think the church is dead, God breathes some life into her and she keeps hopping. The church may be ugly, but kissed with the grace of Jesus, she is a princess, a bride. The church is a frog kissed with grace of God, warts and all.
Before you give up on the frog that is the church, you might want to check yourself for warts. I'll bet you have a few. That means you will fit right in at church.
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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