The following is a true story, but you didn’t need to be told that. I mean, yes, don’t believe most of what you read or see on the internet, and certainly don’t buy everything I say. This is a blog, afterall. But, this really did happen.
Several years ago, my wife and I attended a fairly conservative and traditional, orthodox Episcopal church in Dallas. The congregation were a Texas version of a high C of E parish in any upscale London suburb. Women in nice hats would be a common occurrence. Fairly posh, right and proper. Not sure what I was doing there, but that’s a story for another time.
One bright Sunday morning – Easter, perhaps – we were sitting in a pew downstairs. Normally we would be sitting in the choir loft, but the choir was given the morning off after the long Easter Vigil mass, which lasts about three hours. Actually, this might have been a few Sundays after Easter, but the mood was the same.
In the Catholic mass, along with Episcopalians, and many more, there are prescribed lectionaries – readings that are assembled to illustrate something – that are read for certain occasions. Around Easter, it is customary to review the creation of the world and explain humanity’s dismal place in it. On this glorious Sunday morning, a well-dressed woman in her 30’s walked to the lectern and proceeded to read from Genesis chapter 3. For those who may not be familiar with this particular passage from the Bible, Adam and Eve have defied God by eating the “forbidden fruit” and are now hiding in shame in the Garden of Eden.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were nekkid; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
“Did she say, nekkid?” I looked over at my wife to see if she had heard the same thing, but she either didn’t notice or didn’t react. I glanced around the church surreptitiously, but ostensibly, no one seemed to hear it. The reader kept going:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
(Now, I think this is kind of strange, because God knows all, right? So why didn’t the Almighty know where the man and the woman were hiding?) She continued to read:
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was nekkid; so I hid.”
This time, my wife and looked at each other and smiled. She had heard it! The sound of the word nekkid in this venue, with these finely dressed, upper-class Dallasites – literally in their Sunday best – was very much like seeing a woman in a bright red cocktail dress at a funeral. The sheer redneckedness (red-nekkid-ness?) of this moment was coming through in spite of the way things appeared. At first I thought she simply made a mistake, an error, a slip. But twice? Now I knew this was just how she was used to pronouncing the word “naked.” My wife recalls that perhaps the reader was doing it on purpose, to see if anyone was paying attention. I don’t buy that.
And [God] said, “Who told you that you were nekkid?”
By now more than a few people were holding back laughter, but they heroically maintained their composure. The fact was, this was hysterical, and I appreciated that others recognized it as such. Comedy, it seems, can be found anywhere, even while reading the account of man’s fall from grace. I’m sure God appreciated this moment.
My wife and I recall this day often, simply by repeating the well known passage from Genesis, “Who told you that you were nekkid?” A friend of mine once told me the difference between nekkid and naked. He said, “naked is when you have no clothes on; nekkid is when you have no clothes on, and you’re up to something.” Adam and Eve were definitely up to something. They hid themselves because of their shame, a shame only known to some people, by the way. As for those fine folks in North Dallas, well, who knows what they’re up to.