Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reflections of a Summer

So I am sitting in a church service and I hear a number of clichés and of course it really got me thinking. Cliches like “Welcome to the House of the LORD!” or “This is GOD’S house and we are to give Him our best.” Now, this really got me thinking (actually, it got me going). If by chance, a church building is REALLY GOD’s house…what would we really do there? Would were not first take off our shoes (as good Canadians do) before we enter His house? Would we not wear dirty clothes! We would not wear shorts! Would we not take a bath before we came, even in 100 degree weather? Would we take our own coffee or would we expect Him to be a good host and serve us coffee or tea or cold drink? Would we eat crackers in His house? What does GOD’S house really look like? Why do we really call it GOD’S house? Is He waving good bye to us when we leave? Does He sleep in his house? What is GOD’S house to us? Is it just a building for a meeting place? If so, why do we still call it His house? Is GOD’S house really a holy place, a place that is set apart? Can I say “welcome to GOD”S house on a Sunday morning at the theatres? When does it shift from being GOD’S house to a theatre? Now, is the building really His house or is it outside on the beach? On the golf course? Under the stars? In the cosmos, what about my living room? Can that be GOD’S House? I am baffled!

You see, I live in a subculture of Evangelicalism that uses a bunch of bad clichés and prooftexts when trying to preach a sermon. I hear terms like “GOD’S house” “Hallelujahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” “Praaaaise the Looord” and my personal; favorite “Come on…Come on.” (Where are we going?) By prooftexting I mean how one takes a single verse and twists it to make his/her point, never mind what the Bible really says about the totality of a single topic.

And then there are all these memories my friend brought up from ages ago at teen camp. For those of you who grew up in church, do you remember that youth camp experience where by Thursday night they had us burning our “secular” cassette tapes and albums? For the record, I am still in favor of burning country music. Let’s get back to the point. And you always had this hyper-spiritual teen who would stand up and say “I burned my AC?DC tape and it hissed. I think a demon came out of it when I burned it.” (Uh No. It’s plastic. That’s what happens when you burn plastic.” And then if we’re all honest, we went back six months later and bought the same tape again anyway.

I keep thinking that I live in a subculture that is unique. I must confess that I live in a “holiness culture.” Now in a holiness culture one adapts to the behavior patterns and character of Christians around them. It is these patterns and character expectations that make a person more or less holy, or it is a set of unwritten expectations that are place on a person before they even join the group. So, in a holiness culture I am perceived as holy by what I do and don’t do. Holy people don’t smoke, drink alcohol, cuss, or dance. “Holy” people dress in their best for Sunday church and go to every meeting that is happening at the church. And to be honest the list can go on…but for time sake I will end it here, I think you get the point.

You see there are things that I really HATE about this culture in which I live, and there are also things that I love. I do hate the clichés and the prooftexting, I hate the catch phrases and I hate it that church ends when the sermon is over. I really hate some of the pettiness that I see and as I sit and write this: This is exactly what Jesus speaks out against in the book of Luke. He talks about hypocrisy and I have to admit that the very thing I hate about the sub culture in I find myself in, is the very thing that is in me.

But, as I write this I do love the fact that I believe in a GOD who does fill His people with His Spirit and that one experiences the presence of GOD in a rich and dynamic way that moves people beyond all realm of experience! I have to admit that there is something about being in the presence of GOD’s Spirit and it being so tangibly thick! Then I am struck dumb as I watch young people, my kids included worshipping GOD with their hands raised, eyes closed and mouths pouring out praises to HIM! Teens, lost in the presence of GOD…..speechless. This is not forced, not commanded, not clichéd, just simple honest worship.

So the thought that I am left with at the end of this post is that God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God. Just a summer reflection!



She... said...

Thought #1 - You went and re-bought your AC/DC cassette?!?!?!?

Goofy as this sounds - that frosts my toes!!! I (apparently) haven't been letting go the guilt of NOT burning my Go Go's cassette... And now I hear that all the other kids were just replacing them?!?!? Seriously, dude - my jaw dropped when I read that you just went and bought it again!

I'm sure I have other thoughts - but my first thought was to be kinda p*ssed that I felt guilty for so long for NOT having played along.

SoulPastor said...

I would have posted your comment if you left your real name! Also, I believe you missed the point of the post and are reacting to something.

She... said...

Thought #2 - For the most part, I'm mostly good with church-lingo. In order to be able to go to a church with any regularity I had to be 'okay' with the fact that people will talk like this. People will also act like they follow all the 'rules' and will also act in the way that is expected of them in a particular community.

I don't believe that it is an intentional plan to keep people 'like me' away, although it is effective.

I respect the values and beliefs of my friends who believe that no god or higher power exists. Expectations are bad, but I do expect these same freinds to respect the fact that I believe otherwise.

It took me a long time to respect that 'church people' talked differently than me.

Like you... I'm pretty glad that people go... and make a home out of their church. And I'm pretty glad that all the stuff we do wrong has it's own beauty and that we're loved by God in spite of it.

"Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."
- Leonard Cohen

SoulPastor said...

Thanks She for saying:
"Like you... I'm pretty glad that people go... and make a home out of their church. And I'm pretty glad that all the stuff we do wrong has it's own beauty and that we're loved by God in spite of it."

You nailed it!

Jordan said...

"(a) He has called us to be like himself. (b) Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God."

In reply to (a):This is what I love about following God, the fact that Jesus came to earth and lived as a man, giving us perfect guidelines to follow. The almighty God took the shape of a mere human and gave us a flawless example of how we should model our lives. That's golden.
Yet on the flip side, it is some big shoes to follow in (while completely understanding that we are far from sinless beings), and it is also hard to swallow when I read about some of the tough things that Jesus said and preached.

b) When I first read this phrase I was turned off by it. Maybe because I saw the word "conformity" and I instantly relate it to people wearing [INSERT NAME BRAND HERE] clothing... Regardless, once I read it again I found it to be true. As much as we try to blaze our own trail, conformity (as mentioned in a) is not always a bad thing, especially when your conforming to Jesus.

Peace and Love

Joanne said...

Gerry, I'm still grappling over the fact that I own a Drive In; I mean I seriously love God... I walk my new land on which my drive in sits and I am so thankful for it... Yes I have shouted out thanks and praises to Him for it all... But still I struggle, because I really want Him to approve of everything in my life. Yet I have been taught movies are evil.. And I think many are. I have no interest in adding to filth in people's lives... But I don't make the movies and can't edit them. And yet I see this as a mission field of sorts since I am not hiding or at least trying not to hide that I love Him and want others to fall in love with Him and be drawn to Him because of Him in me.

You know, it is difficult to talk WITHOUT cliches ... Lol. Oh well, it is now 4am. I will continue to wrestle but also rejoice in my new life. Soooooo thankful and yet confused... Lol... Is that OK??? no confusion with the car wash... But the drive in is one I'm still shaking my head over... Lol... But... Am I making sense??? :)

No I don't need counseling.. :) I KNOW I am supposed to be here. Everything is wonderful... But that is what your thoughts made me think about; I am a Christian and I love story telling and books and movies (but not ALL movies)- and now I own a drive in so now everyone else knows I watch movies and that has been a bit of a no-no in my Christian culture upbringing...

Ok.. Enough said! But I hear you! Breaking down walls here... Telling God a tornado can make it all better if I went the wrong direction. :)

Anonymous said...

There are people behind the clichés, behind all appearances. You can't get a genuine read on people by gazing at externals, or in a few words.

Vulnerability, sharing one's heart is a fearful thing. Joanne shared her heart. The dilemma we all have is to do right and keep one's job, one's standing before men, both to influence them to the Truth, and to be responsible human beings and take care of ourselves and our families. This is the common denominator: taking risks of faith.

I watched the Bonhoeffer documentary on Netflix last night, rather than continue with a seedy British flick (the Europeans are clearly at a lower moral grade than Americans in their film making.) It was easy; my heart was sick. But sometimes it's not, and it takes a beating to realize, with God's help and timing, when to stop - maybe to sell the Drive-in. Timing.

That was the case with Bonhoeffer. Twice he left Germany for safety. The first time Karl Barth the renown theologian persuaded him to return. That was a divine moment. Bonhoeffer's conscience worked overtime on his second escape, and upon his return he finally decided to join the resistance because of the atrocities. He took an aggressive stand in spite of a culture of Christian passivity that even the Confessional church failed to keep up, a church of which he was a part, a small church that stood against the Nazis and the mainstream church that had joined the Nazi movement. This lead to his hanging by the Gestapo.

I tell you, real Christianity is in the resistance, inside and outside the Church. There are buildings, and there are human bodies that are Spiritual temples, but they become hiding places. We resist vulnerability in hiding, in behaviours and words, and in possessions, and even in friendships and family traditions. But Christian resistance is simply this, to be critical of these resistances, put them to the cross of scrutiny.

I believe we should do this in two ways. One, admit that appearances are inevitable and unavoidable, but not the source of our appraisal of people. Scriptures says this:

"But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him]. " 1 Corinthians 2:15

We must resist appraisals in terms of externals; this includes how people appraise us or how we appraise ourselves as individuals, and resist the opinions of others, although what they say, or what we say to ourselves may provide insight into what God is revealing to us about our spiritual stance before Him. This is really hard, as hard as it is know what to do with a Drive-in.

Second, God's hand in helping us with the resistance to make appraisals in terms of externals is by removing them, slowly and methodically. We want God's appraisal of everything, and that comes I think primarily by revelation. Hearing God is crucial, to resist being overly critical of ourselves, in both good and bad deeds, and overcritical of others.

I believe the Christian, and subsequently the Church, no matter where it is, what it is doing and what it propagates with words, its media or its externals in buildings, dress, worship and the like, is true to its Savior when things go bad, not when all is well. The rough road exposes the rough hues and the true colours, the vulnerabilities, the insides, most of which we haven't a clue until the storm comes.