Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Monday, March 21, 2005

Going Off

I normally don't harp on church gatherings or try to be negative towards what other churches teach or practice, but I can't help myself today. After what happened Sunday morning at a church I visited, I was so mad I wanted to tell the preacher off as well as the elders and the entire church for accepting such bs.

Sunday morning was Palm Sunday a day to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah, to lay our palms down and announce that this dirty homeless man named Jesus was God incarnate. But this Sunday was just like any Sunday morning gathering for this church. No one even mentioned the significance of this special day that leads up to the triumphal resurrection celebration we call Easter. Things were done the same way it seemed. Even the topic of the preacher's sermon was just like anything you might hear any other Sunday at this church. He talked on why people come down during the "Invitation" part of the service. For those not from my tribe or unfamiliar with this church tradition, it is a set apart time when the preacher is done speaking, he "invites" those who need prayers, confession or want to be baptized to the front pew all the while the congregation sings 3 or 4 verses of a depressing song that talk about how long will you wait for Jesus or the evil of walking in sin or something to that effect. Talk about a guilt trip! Really it is almost like you are transported back 50 years and find yourself in a tent meeting sweating from the outdoor heat, feeling exhausted because you just heard an hour sermon on the eternal timeframe of hell and now you must sing all 8 verses of "Just As I Am" twice while you wait for those "sinners" to come down and repent of their dirty sins.

So anyway the preacher gives the standard 5 points of why one should respond to the sermon (to be baptized/becoming a Christian, confess sin, rededicate your faith, need prayers, placing membership). About half way into his talk, I become annoyed and begin outlining my upcoming Ruth 4 paper for my grad class. He ends his talk (finally) and we all stand and sing for the "Invitation." Hmmmm, I wonder if he was actually hoping someone would find out that they can come down for the Invitation for any of these 5 reasons that they had not known before hand. Since this church is a generational church, which means that they grew up going to this church and now their children and grandchildren will continue to come while the community remains stagnate with these generational people, I'd guess that most of the people already knew the rhyme and reason for the Invitation after a sermon. Well, we are about mid way into the 4th verse when Michael comes down the aisle. All eyes glance his way as he sits down with the preacher on the front pew. "What could Michael be confessing" I ignorantly thought. "Is it some secret sin or does he need prayers for an illness?" A silent hush fell over the crowd as the preacher and Michael engage in a whispery conversation. We all sit down and eagerly await for the preacher to pronounce the reason Michael came forward. The minister says, "Well I've never had someone come down for this reason. But I must say I'm glad Michael is my friend."

Before we get into why Michael came down and what started this whole post in the first place, let me tell you about Michael. I don't know him but he has Down Syndrome. He seems to be accepted by the teen group and often serves communion and passes the offering plates around. So needless to say, Michael loves to help out and be involved. I think that's great that they let him do stuff like this. Kudos to the church. So why did Michael come down the front? Are you sure you want to know? It was because he had heard a sermon a few weeks back on the sin of dancing! He told the preacher that he had been thinking about this a lot lately because Michael likes to dance but knows its wrong to do so (according the preacher's teaching).

What the hell!?! I mean is this really necessary to preach 30 minutes on the dangers of dancing!?! Is that what is so important that the minister has to find verses that somehow back up this claim and scare the (literal) hell out of people so they won't sin. Not only does this teaching occur, they have an Alternate Prom where students from the church go to a banquet instead of their own prom because God forbid they might dance....and we all know what dancing leads to, right. Talk about sin management and how the most effective tool of guilt can be used. Most of his sermons are about what NOT to do as a Christian. I don't think I have ever heard the word grace come out of his mouth or discipleship none the less. Now to be fair, I didn't hear that dancing sermon (thank God) but to have a man who doesn't have a fully functional brain to comprehend this matter and have him probably worry about his salvation because he likes to dance, that's just ludicrous to tell him or anyone for that matter that such an act is wrong! I felt sorry for Michael because he feel into the trap of believing all that this Bible Answerman had to offer.

I have tried to be as nice as possible on this post, but nice just isn't going to happen. I kept trying to reassure myself that this is what works for them, this is their context, but I couldn't accept that answer. I know that this church probably won't come to grips with the changing world because their community (town) is not changing. They won't have to deal with this postcolonial philosophy or the emerging cultural shift because they will resist those factors whenever they arrive. And when they do, they'll reject it as evil and continue to live in the past while the rest of the world zooms on by. It's a sad reality to know that sin management is their "encouragement" to live as Christ in their daily lives. It's disheartening to know that Michael will probably never participate in the joyful service of dancing ever again. It's discouraging to know how much Easter has been reduced to a "special" Sunday that allows you to hunt for eggs, dress pretty and eat a big ham dinner at lunch. I have really found just how significant the Christian calendar can be. With all that said, I haven't been very progressive in my dealing with Lent this season. Maybe I should confess that during the next Invitation. Maybe I should ask for prayers for my attitude against my brothers and sisters at this church. Maybe I need to repent of my arrogance. Maybe I should just give up trying to care about stuff like this. Maybe...