Posted tagged ‘revelation’

What I Like About Church

March 18, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 18, 2019

                                 

I admit that it’s ingrained in me. Sunday mornings have always meant one word: Church! And since our family attended Central Baptist Church in Winchester, Kentucky, it meant Sunday morning and Sunday evening. 

I was always a bit jealous of the kids at the Methodist church across the street from Central Baptist. They didn’t have Sunday evening services and, therefore, got to stay home and watch “Walt Disney” on TV. For my two siblings and me, our exposure to Walt Disney had to happen at Leed’s Theatre in downtown Winchester. That’s where we discovered “Old Yeller” and “Big Red”, not on TV!

But I liked church! It was like a warm blanket on a blizzard night. It felt good and right. 

And now 55 years since Central Baptist, and a career as an American Baptist pastor, I still feel right when I sit in a pew, or a sanctuary chair. It makes me wonder though…why? It’s got to be more than just the mark made by a family tradition. Why do I think about being a part of a worship service when Sunday morning rolls around?

I could get all spiritual on you and say right away that it’s because of the grace of God for such a sinner as me, and the forgiveness of Christ exacted by the shedding of his blood…and that’s true! The foundation for being a life-long church participant IS rooted in the gospel of Christ, but that’s not what gets me out of bed on Sunday morning.

It’s not the lure of donuts and Danish’s either, or weak coffee brewed by someone who’s taste was destroyed by drinking watered-down Maxwell House.

I like church because of the intimacy and the memories of intimacy. Not the youth group hay rides we used to go on…not that kind of intimacy, although the memories of them still bring a smile to my face!

The intimacy I’m thinking of was being able to lean up against my mom or dad’s arm and know that neither or them was going anywhere for the next hour or so. There was a closeness to family in those moments. 

A few weeks ago a picture popped up on my Facebook page from seven years ago. It was from Christmas Day, 2011. I stood in the aisle of the sanctuary with a dear man named Rex Davis. I had my arm around his shoulders and he had his arm around my waist. Rex was around 90 at the time. I like church because of moments like that, when the bond of Christ draws us together in an embrace of deep love and connected humanity. 

I like church because of the moments of revelation. Once again, I need to clarify about that term, because it’s been associated with suspect snake oil salesmen. For me, the moments of revelation come as I sit in silence and ponder, or as a scripture verse is read for the umpteenth time, or as I gaze at a stained glass window. Things get revealed to me about myself, or about the One I’m encountering. I live in a world that is so noisy I’m blasted with false revelations every day. I’m told my life needs certain things- products and services and such. Snake oil now comes in a variety of cultural flavors. In church, true revelation is hinted at if I desire to follow its path.

I like the hope of church and the hope experienced in church. Weary souls stumble through the doors and then a short while later leave rested and reassured. The hurting share their wounds and are carried back to healing. The lonely and broken-hearted are able to be embraced and held in place. A world of trouble is put into perspective by the message of the God who draws near.

I don’t go to church to be impressed by the perfection of the pastor, or the performance of the participants. There’s something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth- like sweet cream gone bad- when church tries to outdo the other places of worship in the same zip code, something fake and foreign to my senses.

And so I go each Sunday, ready to receive and willing to give. I’ve long since stopped using my mom and dad’s arms as a pillow for my head, but I still have others who I know I can lean on, if and when I need them!

Bad Ideas and Leadings from God

October 9, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   October 9, 2012

 

Sometimes people say things to me like, “You’re a pastor! You’ve got extra influence with God.” Or “You’re a pastor! Would you say a prayer for me, since God listens to you more than me.” I’m tempted at that point to respond with a “Show me where Scripture says that” , but usually the person saying it doesn’t have muchof a grasp on Scripture.

And I want to also tell them that I often confuse bad ideas as being the leadings of God. After all, pastors are suppose to have leadings from the Lord, and when we walk through a desert period in our spiritual lives we’re sometimes guilty of inventing leadings. It’s kind of like when a group has a prayer time and the group members are told to pray that they feel led. Sometimes there are the heart-felt prayers that are spoken, and sometimes there are prayers uttered because of the uncomfortableness of silence.

Someone needs to pray something.”

There are leadings that are really reactions. People get ticked off at one another, and “are led” to do some things that I can’t believe God would lead them to do. Pastors have often been “led by the Lord” right after a heated church council meeting. I’d like someone “to be led” to do a study of what percentage of pastor resignations come within a week of church board meetings.

There are leadings that shine the spotlight on a person, and leadings that get leaked to the media. The word “revelation” gets substituted for leadings on occasion. For some reason it seems like it’s more spiritual for pastors to talk about “receiving revelations from God”, but everyone else has to use the term leadings.

Leadings can sometimes be responses from our tendency to not just stand there but to do something. Peter felt that urge after the Transfiguration of Jesus on top of a mountain. Spontaneous as he tended to be he came up with the “leading” of building three shelters to recognize the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus. One translation uses the word “tents.” I remember reading that when I was growing up and I couldn’t get a Boy Scout camp-out image out of my mind. I started envisioning Jesus sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows with his guests and disciples. I discovered that it was my imagination, not a revelation.

Leadings can only be so far, also. What I mean is that a leading can be so far out there that people lose sight of it. The shepherd doesn’t lose sight of the sheep because some of the sheep tend to lose focus. And yet the shepherd knows when it’s time to move…to be led to a new place of grazing.

Bad ideas sometimes emerge out of a desire to be relevant. Relevance is something that the people of God need to keep in mind, but sometimes it is relevance that is driving the cart. It shows when it seems that a lot of people are being led by the Lord to suddenly dress a certain way, or start a certain ministry. My cynical side asks why God didn’t lead someone to open a coffee house in their church back in the 70’s? Why does it seem that there are so many leadings of that ministry in the past five years with the Starbucks explosion?

Of course, you can take that reasoning and “why asking” only so far. To take it to an extreme is a bad idea. There is always a danger of questioning a new idea simply because we question anything that is new.

I pray consistently for the leading of the Spirit, but realize that the leading is in the Spirit’s time not mine. Sometimes the Lord leads with a stop sign, and sometimes he leads us in retreat.

My hope, as well as my fear, is that on Sunday morning when I stand before the gathered saints and faith journeyers that he will have led me to a word…a word from the Lord to share with the church. It is a moment of trepidation because of the fear of sharing, not a leading, but a bad idea…and a fear because of there always being the possibility that the Lord didn’t lead me to a word that week. Perhaps some Sundays the sermon should simply be silent!